Longtime Casting Director Margaret Doversola spoke to Maui acting hopefuls on Tuesday, March 4, at the Maui Tropical Plantation. The TV and film veteran, whose credits include "Lost," "Magnum P.I.," "Pearl Harbor" and "Hawai'i Five-0," drew an audience of about 150 actors and others interested in working in local production, who listened intently as she urged them to start as extras, learn on the job, and be prepared for setbacks and difficulties along the way.
Doversola recapped a bit of local film history, beginning with the first footage shot in the islands by Thomas Edison on a stopover in 1898. "Mutiny on the Bounty" in 1935 and "From Here to Eternity" in 1953 were both made in Hawai'i and each won "Best Picture" Oscars.
As for her own line of work as a casting director, she said there was no school or course of study that led to that occupation and described how she had learned on the job. Doversola said she found that her background as a Mormon was helpful.
Maui acting hopefuls dropped off photos and resumes for a casting book database that will be used for upcoming film and TV projects on the Valley Isle.
"They like you to talk," she said, and that experience helped her to communicate. "A casting director is not just hiring actors. It is being an employment counselor and a psychologist, too."
Born in Manchester, England, and raised in Tasmania, Doversola got her start working with local musicians on the "Hawai'i Calls" radio show. That morphed into a stint with the original "Hawai'i Five-0" (a show that did its pilot in 1968). As the years went on, she was also involved with many other Hawai'i-based productions, including "Hawai'i Five-0" in its current incarnation.
Doversola stressed that in many cases, people evolve: "When you meet others in the business, your ideas can change," she said, giving examples of a young woman who started as an extra and eventually "went to Warner's as a writer. Opportunities come up. You've got to be ready."
"When that first opportunity comes," she advised, "know what you need to do and who you go to (and who you stay away from). Be good to the people you come in contact with," she added, emphasizing the importance of building a network of friends in front of and behind the camera. "And, when you don't get the job, try to learn something from the experience, so it's not a waste of time."
In years past, she said, "we were constantly looking for new faces." But presently, she observed, a lot of the talent "comes in from the Mainland," and that's made it harder for local actors to build up a resume.
New Maui Film Commissioner
Doversola's talk was hosted by the Maui County Film Office. Tracy Bennett, newly named Maui film commissioner, was on-hand to introduce her. In his remarks, he commented on his recent trip to Korea and indicated that he hoped to see two Korean productions begin work here within the year.
He also pointed out that Maui competes with many other locations that give generous subsidies for film and television, and explained that the tax incentive for productions shooting on the Neighbor Islands has recently been increased to 25 percent. Bennett took pains to point out that it is not a "credit" but an actual "rebate" that can be quite substantial. He said it has been useful in motivating production to come to the Valley Isle and other parts of Hawai'i.
In an email the following day, Bennett commented, "The Maui County Film Office is building enthusiasm and motivation by having guest speakers come and enlighten our film community here. We hope to have these events once every month to six weeks or so. The Maui Tropical Plantation has been generous in giving us the venue, and by helping the Maui Food Bank and Maui Salvation Army."
Bennett said he hopes to see progress by "bringing Maui County to the forefront in becoming a production hub. It is crucial that we stay active in keeping the local community upbeat while we promote Maui County and attract companies to take advantage of our tax incentive."
Large-Scale Film on the Horizon
Among those attending the event was Socrates Buenger of Maui Film Studios. He confirmed that a feature film production has booked his facilities beginning at the end of May, and he anticipates that there may be jobs for as many as 500 extras when production gets underway. The working title is "The Order of Ethyrea: Code of the Brethren," and it will be directed by Andy Armstrong and Vic Armstrong and shot here on Maui. The production has an estimated budget of $105 million.
"The future looks good for us," Buenger said.