Published Sept. 14, 2009
Gulf Coast Talent & Film Expo
Manatee Convention Center, 1 Haben Blvd., Palmetto, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sat., Sept. 19, 920-4371 orwww.truehollywoodscreentest.net, free
When Creative Loafing covered a budding company called True Hollywood Screen Test 14 months ago, the operation was basically two brothers, Mark and Brian Ibasfalean, filming amateur auditions out of a truck in the Royal Palm 20 movie theater parking lot. The idea came while they were looking for an actress to play a part in their still-unfinished horseshoe crab horror movie Blue Blooded Terror. “We were making a film and we wanted a place to audition people, so we built the portable unit,” says Brian, the project’s tech guy. “Every time we set it up we had a bunch of people that wanted to do something in it.” The brothers decided to put the movie on hiatus and started bringing the mobile audition truck to events all over the area to let locals give acting a shot.
They began posting all the videos on their website, truehollywoodscreentest.com, and soon they noticed a real opportunity emerging, for themselves, but also for aspiring local actors, models and musicians. “It’s a place for people who think they have talent or want to see if they have talent to give it a shot. They can do what they want with their videos. If they want to send it to Disney or Busch Gardens, they can do it. We don’t claim exclusive rights.
“Everybody that comes to us really thinks they have talent, and I’m finding about a third of the people really do have talent. We’ve got 5 percent that are there — right on par with the American Idol people.”
Since our first article they have turned a few dozen videos into nearly 700. As content and web traffic increased they had to upgrade, so a month ago they launched truehollywoodscreentest.net. “The new site is a searchable database,” says Brian. “We’re going to be upgrading to a different server. I don’t want somebody to write an article and all of a sudden we have thousands of people hitting the site and it doesn’t work. We’re learning and figuring it out. Running a video-sharing website is a lot more complicated than the static website we had.”
The videos are shot with a green-screen backdrop, which allows people to be superimposed into a number of different scenes. Folks can have themselves, their kids or even their pets put into any situation. “We’ve just been offering people a chance to fly or ski,” says Brian, “but the new website is going to offer a bunch of backgrounds.”
The new website allows users to create a member page, much like YouTube, which lets them add personal information and comment on videos. The clips are uploaded anonymously and categorized by the type of audition, such as child musician, female dramatic monologue or male comedy routine. Any type of audition is accepted and it is up to the participants to claim their video online and market it as they wish.
The best part? It costs nothing, which is unusual in the audition industry. “Our whole plan is to keep it free however we can, because people don’t have money,” says Brian. “A lot of people we’re auditioning, they have talent, but that’s all they got. They don’t have big incomes and ways to go out and promote themselves. They love that they can shoot a video, put in on a website and share it. They don’t have to fly to California; just have them go to the trailer.”
This Saturday the Ibasfaleans will be taking their concept to a whole new level. True Hollywood Screen Test will host its own auditioning exhibition with the Gulf Coast Talent & Film Expo at the Manatee Convention Center. The brothers, who were formerly commercial fisherman, came up with the idea as a way to promote the site while fishing off Cortez two months ago.
“We didn’t expect to have anything near this size,” says Mark, the PR man. “We were going to do something at the Boys & Girls Club, then everybody said, ‘We want to be part of it too.’ We said, ‘OK, sure.’ A month later it was a monster thing — at least 18 vendors and probably more. We’ve got Creative Motion Concept out of Clearwater; they’re bringing production trucks down. Ron Galletti from Born to Ride [magazine] is going to be there showing how they do television shows. You’ve got to have something for everybody to look at.”
The auditions themselves have some big names involved. There will be three separate rooms filming auditions. The biggest will house the talent stage with the nationally recognized John Robert Powers talent-training school running the show. Another room will be auditioning musicians with Del Couch from Howling Dog Studios hunting out the true rock stars. And the third stage will be run by the Ibasfaleans, and will feature more casual auditions for people just wanting to give their talents a try.
Aspiring actors can choose from a number of scripts to read from or bring their own. The brothers’ business partner, Jim Turner, helps Mark with PR and writes many of the monologues based on his short stories. Turner believes the expo will help to expose not only the talent of the Gulf Coast, but the area itself. “We’re young, but we’re trying to bridge a gap, in some degree, between Hollywood and Florida,” he says. “There’s a lot of people in Florida with a lot of talent, and that’s a big part of the expo: to get people looking at the location and looking at the area, because it’s a beautiful area.”
The Gulf Coast Film & Talent Expo is obviously a step in the right direction, but has the Ibasfaleans seen their project work for anyone yet? Has anyone been picked up by a talent agency or record label? “We haven’t heard of anything,” says Brian, “but we’re not really asking people to tell us what they’ve done with their videos. We just give them to them and they can do what they want with them. We’d appreciate if somebody came up and said, ‘Hey, I’m famous now. Thanks guys.’ We’re all about that.”