Colin Costello’s Director Journey Part 3 – An Essay

The cast of “The After Party”

Editor’s Note — Our contributor, Colin Costello, recently enjoyed personal growth by moving from beyond a writer’s traditional role to actually directing his short film, The After Party. We asked Colin to chronicle his journey.

As first, a copywriter, and then a screenwriter, there was nothing scarier to me than having a blank computer screen in front of me. Countless times, I would open with a line only to delete it. Again, and again. The forests and environmentalists surely were relieved that I started writing just as typewriters were becoming obsolete. I can only imagine how many balls of paper, with one sentence, would have buried me.

Yes, starting to write something is scary AF (“AF” is my attempt at being one of the cool kids). The idea of directing said script took my fear to a whole other level of terror.

But here we were, Rachel Amanda Bryant and myself. We were going to co-produce this short film otherwise known as, “my baby.” Rachel was going to star. I was going to direct her. But we needed others to join “the party.” See what I did there? The question was who would be the casting person to wrangle them in?

That question was answered for me at Rachel’s birthday party in the Fall of 2016. And she came in the form of a fiery, opinionated and creative strawberry blonde named Elaine Nunez.

When I first met Elaine, I thought she was super cute. That’s my problem, see? I think someone is really cute, start flirting with them and next thing I know, it becomes a working relationship rather than a personal thing.

Casting director Elaine NunezBut in Elaine’s case, it blossomed into a great and honest working relationship and someone with whom I would never want to cast without.

The, um, very initial and honest conversations with the head of PICK A LANE ENTERTAINMENT would happen at what eventually would become our “go to” – Mama’s Shelter in Hollywood – and went something like this:

“Don’t think I’m crazy, but what about Lindsay Lohan?”

“Why not!?”

Elaine then reached out to Lindsay. She never said no to any suggestion no matter how crazy. Luckily for us, this non-stop ball of energy didn’t stop there and reached out to a lot of people. Elaine hit the ground running – blowing up my cell constantly with ideas of whom we would surround Rachel with.

It was weeks of casting and callbacks. Callbacks and castings. Some actors were right. Some were wrong. Some were available. Some weren’t. Elaine chewed my ear off with her insight and opinions. I learned from her that the thing about casting is not so much choosing someone whom you imagined when you were writing the piece, but someone embodies that character’s spirit. I wanted actors who would elevate my script.

One mistake I did make (granted I make lots of them) was promising a dear friend of mine, the role of Chloe in the film. Chloe is a Latina super fan of Skye’s (played by Rachel) who also has a penchant for coke. I should have told Elaine, Rachel and NJ from Day One that Chloe’s role was cast.

But I was ambiguous about it. I guess deep down I wanted to see who was the best for each role. I had to make this film the best it could be to prove to others I could do this and more importantly to myself. Being a director means making hard choices. This would be the first of many. That said, I really did want my friend to play her. I had been wanting to work with her forever and still do. And I had every intention of casting her.

Then I didn’t.

Costello confers with Brooke Willard

My friend is super talented. A great and moving actress. Funny as hell. But when compared to whom we did cast as Chloe, she didn’t completely embody the character’s spirit which is what I was looking for.

Elaine and I got into shouting matches over her. Then we would make up five minutes later. Then chew each other out again.

“Okay, I’m done. I’m not doing this with you anymore.”

“Don’t you hang up on me.”

“Oh, I’m hanging up!”

And she followed through on her promise. Again. And again.

Eventually I told the bad news to my friend because I knew deep down Elaine and Rachel were right. The talented actress whom we finally chose as Chloe, Veronica Sixtos, had appeared on a slew of shows the real Chloe (my daughter, not a coke fiend) and Max used to watch on Disney and Teen Nick.

It broke my heart, and our friendship for a while, to tell my friend she wasn’t going to be a part. It was here that I learned my first harsh lesson as a director and as a human being – don’t make promises you can’t keep.

We eventually rounded out the rest of the cast with Hilary Barraford, Denise Milfort, Ashley Platz (there is a whole BTS story there), Aaron Gaffey (the Joker from my DC Comics Fan Film, Committed) and Tarnue Massquoi.

We had a cast. We were starting to get a crew. All we needed was money… and Lindsay never called back. (TO BE CONTINUED)

LA-Based Colin Costello writes for film, TV, advertising and of course, Reel Chicago. Follow him on Twitter @colincostello10.