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Robert Andersen's 'Asbury Park' Wins Accolades

On BU Today, Boston University's online news site, writer Robin Berghaus recently interviewed up-and-coming filmmaker Robert Andersen. Andersen's graduate thesis student film, "Asbury Park," won the best short film prize in the Boston International Film Festival and garnered first place at the Redstone West fest, among other accolades.

Andersen notes that he used Back Stage to find talent, and discusses his casting process and methods of working with actors:

BU Today: "Why did you include so many private moments with no dialogue?"

I see myself more as a director than a writer, so I wanted to tell the film visually.

And while I was writing the film, I didn’t know that I would be able to attract talented actors. Garrett Lee Hendricks, who plays Colin’s brother, appeared in "Law & Order." Colin’s mother, played by Robyn Hatcher, also appeared in "Law & Order" and in "One Life to Live" and "All My Children."

So I cut back on dialogue and gave them tasks to perform, putting them in situations that would make it easier for novice actors to succeed. And in real life, people don’t always say what they’re thinking — actions reveal their thoughts.

Visual storytelling makes for an active audience. And that’s good. You want the audience to do some work, so they don’t get bored.

"How did you find the cast?"

Since the film was going to be shot in New Jersey, I knew I would find the best actors in New York. So I sent out a casting e-mail through a friend of mine who is in theater, and I also used a few casting Web sites, like BackStage.com. I got some great responses.

Since student films don’t pay, it’s hard to attract quality actors. I attribute the quality of the cast to the roles in the film. The majority of Asbury’s citizens are minorities, so I wanted to tell the story of a black family. But I removed race from the story. It could be any family. So my actors were compelled to work on the film, because the characters they played aren’t the stereotypical roles usually reserved for black actors.

And finding Chance Harlem, Jr., the actor playing the main character, was luck.

We had filled up all of our time slots in our casting sessions in New York. And Chance didn’t have a reel with sample clips of his acting or a lot of credentials or formal training. So I wasn’t sure about calling him in. But my producer and I told Chance if he could make it to Asbury for a casting call, we would see him.

He lives in Philadelphia, about an hour and a half away from Asbury. He was there before we even arrived. He was the first person we saw, and he blew us away. It was as if the part was written for him. He immediately got the beats and subtleties.

So he went from a guy who was there as a courtesy to blowing us away.

To read the full article on BU Today, click here.

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