WINNING SMILE: This is the photo that landed Roque the role in "Worlds We Created," a short, indie film.
Brian Roque may only be 14, but the young Warwick native has already performed at venues like Trinity Repertory Company. The aspiring actor is no stranger to the stage, and will appear later this summer in Rhode Island Youth Theatre’s production of “The Wizard of OZ” at the University of Rhode Island.
But Roque did something different last week, and for the first time, stepped off the stage and in front of the camera.
Roque has been an extra for several movies, but has never had a featured role; that all changes when he auditioned for an independent film on a whim in the spring.
Roque’s mother’s friend informed him about the audition, and Roque decided to take a stab at it. Instead of venturing to western Massachusetts for the audition though, he filmed a short audition video on his mother’s iPhone. The production company sent Roque a monologue to memorize, and Roque learned it, filmed it and sent it via YouTube to the filmmakers. A few weeks later, Roque was notified he had been cast.
On Saturday, July 7, Roque and his mom made their way to the Berkshires for his three-day filming stint. The 12-minute film was shot over the course of six days in West Stockbridge and North Egremont, Massachusetts.
Alison Walters, the film’s producer, said some of the film was shot in her own home, a former tavern in the 1700’s.
Walters said the film, “Worlds We Created,” was written by a fellow Ithaca alum, Nick Santos, who also directed the film. The team has been working together since their senior year at Ithaca in 2010, when Walters acted in Santos’ thesis film. “Worlds We Created” has been in pre-production for about a year and a half.
Walters said the story centers around three young boys in 1969.
“It’s the story of a boy who wants to live between imagination and reality,” she said. “And what happens when he realizes he can’t do that anymore.”
The three boys, simply known as “Boy,” “Bully” and “Four Eyes” are playing “shoot ‘em up,” when a catastrophic event changes their outlooks.
Roque, with sandy blonde hair and friendly blue eyes, portrayed a nameless bully, a role those close to him know is the opposite of his off-screen personality.
“He’s got a sweet, young face,” said Walters of Roque. “But he’s tall. He’s a sweetheart, but once the cameras are rolling… he really fulfilled the role of the bully.”
During the film, Roque’s character fantasizes about being a military man, and manages to give one of his fellow playmates a bloody nose during their horseplay. At the end of the film, Roque’s character falls 15-feet out of a barn. Whether he survives the fall is left up to the audience’s imagination.
The film doesn’t include much dialogue, and instead relies on action and imagery to tell the story.
“That’s our style,” explained Walters.
Despite the lack of dialogue, Roque said the days were still lengthy.
“We filmed from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.,” he said. “We would do things over and over again. When they say ‘one more time for safety,’ that really means another five to 10 takes.”
Roque recalled one scene where had to do a loud “warrior scream.”
“I had to do it 25 to 30 times,” he said, noting it took a toll on his voice.
But Roque still enjoyed the experience. The 14-year-old actor was considered for a role in the recently released feature “Moonrise Kingdom,” and has also done some extra, or background, work on other films. He also has extensive experience in live theater.
“They’re both way different,” said Roque of film and theater. “On stage you have one shot and you have to just keep going. On film you do it so many different times in so many different ways.”
Roque said he also learned that the smallest facial expressions work for film, whereas with theatre, everything must be exaggerated. Despite their differences, Roque said he’d like to return to the silver screen in the future.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “I’d love to do something like that again.”
Roque’s mom, Patricia, said she plans to take Roque to more auditions in the future, and to nourish his love of the performing arts.
“This seems to be his passion,” said Patricia, who said she’s never been a “stage mom.” “We’ll do everything we can to help him.”
The short film is set to be completed in September, at which point Walters said they will submit it to various international film festivals. There’s a possibility the film will be showcased here at the Rhode Island International Film Festival next year.
Getting into the 'biz'
“You’re going out there a kid, but you’ve got to come back a star.”
The quote is one of the more famous lines from the glittering Broadway musical, “42nd Street,” spoken by Julian Marsh – the overbearing but successful director – to his new ingénue, Peggy Sawyer.
For child actors, it’s possible to become a star in Rhode Island. Despite the state’s small size, the state is a hub of arts activity for performers of all ages.
Rhode Island Youth Theatre, formerly Fantasy Works, boasts alumni who have starred on Broadway, national tours and at regional theaters. This year the company is celebrating 25 years of “inspiring Rhode Island’s youth through the arts.” Their programs run year-round, with productions during February and April school vacations and during the summer break. Registration fees for their larger programs, which are staged at venues like RIC and URI and performed with live orchestras are typically $300. Visit www.riyt.org for more information.
For the teens, Bishop Hendricken High School’s Summer Stage program offers both boys and girls the opportunity to spend their summers singing and dancing. Free to those who are cast, the performances take place at the school’s new, state-of-the-art theatre in Warwick. Hendricken also opens up their school-year plays and musicals to girls from any high school in the state. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Less interested musical theater? Both Trinity Repertory Company and The Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre offer summer intensives for students looking to dig deep into drama. The Gamm offers an intensive for high school students by audition only. It is taught by resident actors, and is only for those serious about pursuing the arts. At Trinity, classes for children in Kindergarten through 12th grade are offered year round. They also offer summer intensives taught by repertory members. Tuition for new students is roughly $1350 for about a month of training, which takes place at the theater. For more info about these programs, visit www.gammtheatre.org/education or www.trinityrep.com/education.
Ocean State Theatre Company, the producing entity at Theatre by the Sea, holds a two-week camp for 30 students in grades 5 to 9 at their Matunuck location. Campers have their culminating performance on the Theatre by the Sea stage, which has been graced by greats like Marlon Brando and Carol Channing. More info at www.theatrebythesea.com/camp-ostc.
For students looking to get into film and television, Rhode Island’s own LDI Casting is the place to go. Anne Mulhall, the owner and casting director, often offers courses on acting for the camera. She also casts major motion pictures that come through Rhode Island, and has worked on “Moonrise Kingdom,” “27 Dresses,” “Underdog,” “Something About Mary,” and more. Join her email list by emailing email@example.com and writing “Add me to the list,” in the subject line.
For serious performers, a photo and resume are critical, even if they’re homemade. Send materials to casting directors like LDI, CP Casting, Boston Casting and other New England film and television casting agencies to be kept on file.
Performance opportunities for youths are abundant in Rhode Island and surrounding areas. Whether it be through a company like Rhode Island Youth Theatre, in Trinity Repertory’s “A Christmas Carol,” or even in the various community theaters in the state, student performers need to look no further than their own hometown. For performance opportunities in both the community and professional realms, check websites like NeTheater411.com, JACneed.com, Actorsequity.org and Playbill.com, all of which are free to access.