When Marion Kerr answered a fall 2006 casting notice in Back Stage West for the feature drama White Knuckles, she had no idea it would result in two projects. Filmmakers Zak Forsman and Kevin K. Shah of Sabi Pictures were searching for an actor to play the supporting role of Amber, a troubled young woman grappling with family loss. But Amber would also become the lead character in Sabi's next film, Heart of Now. After auditioning for White Knuckles, Kerr landed a callback.
"I came back with the sides, really memorized them, and put in a little good, hard work," recalls the Sacramento native, who moved to Los Angeles five years ago. But Forsman and Shah weren't interested in the script.
"The way we approach a film," Forsman explains, "is to involve the actor in the collaborative process." In the callback, actors were asked to ignore the lines and improvise a scene they'd read during the initial audition. "The instructions were simple," says Forsman, who gave Kerr a specific objective: get her scene partner to look at the sunset without using any dialogue.
"It was not at all what I was expecting," says Kerr, who had done similar exercises as a theatre major at University of California, Irvine. A recent gig with the 48 Hour Film Project — an annual festival where directors, actors, and writers turn out a film in two days — had also given her some improv preparation. Her experience paid off.
"I cast Marion Kerr because she's so goddamn fascinating to watch," Forsman says. "She observes and engages with anything you put in front of her, whether that be another actor, a prop, or just her environment.... We do work with a screenplay, but our ideal is to throw those words away and work with the underlying intentions and objectives to navigate our way through it organically."
While filming White Knuckles, Kerr was instructed to use the script as a guideline to understand her character, but she seldom found herself using the written dialogue. "The idea is to make it so I understand the character better than [Shah] does," says Kerr, who spent many hours discussing her character with the filmmakers.
Nine months after wrapping White Knuckles — and a day after seeing a casting notice for Sabi's Heart of Now in BSW — Kerr got a call from Forsman asking her to reprise the role of Amber. The film, scheduled for a spring 2008 release, follows the character's relationship to a long-lost father figure. Now a veteran of Sabi's improv-based approach, Kerr knows just how to prep for the project: "I have a script on my desk, but I'm not memorizing any of those lines."
Kerr, who's repped commercially by Karin Jensen at DDO Artists Agency, is also SAG-eligible. For more on Kerr, visit www.marionkerr.com.
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