Travis Holt Hamilton issues open casting call for 'Touch the Water'

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FARMINGTON — With his latest project due to get underway this spring, a regional independent filmmaker is looking to fill more than a dozen roles in his cast — and he doesn't mind using inexperienced actors to do it.

"Touch the Water," the new feature film by Arizona director, producer and writer Travis Holt Hamilton, is scheduled to go into production in April. Hamilton said he has approximately 15 parts he is looking to fill, and he has put out an open casting call for actors who are interested in taking part.

The roles are largely, but not exclusively, for Native actors. They encompass various age ranges, including children. They include lead and supporting roles, and all the actors will be paid and compensated for travel.

Anyone interested in auditioning for a part is encouraged to visit holthamilton.com and click the "Actors" tab, where they will be guided through the process of submitting an audition video and other required materials, including a head shot and body shot, and contact information.

The deadline for submission is Feb. 22, but Hamilton encouraged interested actors to submit their materials as quickly as possible to give him more time to consider all the videos.

Hamilton said he plans to shoot the film at locations in Arizona and New Mexico. He has considerable experience working in the area, as he already has several other small-budget, independent films to his credit, including his best-known picture, the comedy "More Than Frybread."

His résumé also includes the sci-fi thriller "Legends from the Sky" and the coming-of-age drama "Turquoise Rose." He also recently put together a series of fitness videos geared for a Native audience called "Native Fit with Freida."

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"Touch the Water" relates the story of an elderly Native woman who is challenged to fulfill a lifelong dream by a young intern at a local senior center. Hamilton is looking for actors to fill six major roles, including that of Daisy, the lead character, and a variety of small parts.

Hamilton said he has given more than 100 first-time Native actors speaking roles in his films in the past, so he doesn't shy away from working with people with little or no professional experience. He acknowledged that part of that approach stems from the limited budget he typically has at his disposal — as little as $15,000 in some cases — but added he likes being able to help aspiring actors fulfill their ambitions.

"I enjoy it," he said. "I feel like it's me giving back. I've been given so many opportunities to make films by other people, and this is my chance to return the favor."

Hamilton also feels like he is helping discover and give exposure to a pool of Native actors, explaining that there is not a surplus of such performers available.

"I like playing that role of developing up-and-coming talent," he said.

Hamilton said some of the Native actors he has introduced to the film world in the past have gone on to appear in several of his films, including James Bilagody, who debuted in the 2008 film "Blue Gap Boy'z" before going on to appear in "More Than Frybread" and "Legends from the Sky."

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The Holt Hamilton Films website features descriptions of the characters for the major roles in "Touch the Water," but Hamilton said he purposely kept them limited.

"I wanted (the actors) to play the audition with limited information," he said. "That way, they have the freedom to create their own back story for the character."

Hamilton said after he has examined all the audition videos, he will identify the actors he is interested in having in for callbacks. The second audition, he said, typically is done in person.

A 15-day shooting schedule is planned, and actors who earn a major role in the film will need to be available for most, if not all, of that time, Hamilton said. Those who are selected to appear in minor roles or as extras would need to commit only for a day or two.

Hamilton hasn't established a shooting schedule yet because he is still in the process of putting together a budget for the project, and he said the number of major roles he winds up filling will depend on the quality of the actors who submit audition videos and the amount of financing he has in place.

He said anyone who has ever wondered what it would be like to appear in a feature film should go through the process of submitting an audition video.

"At the very least, you'll walk away with more respect for the actors you see in TV and movies, because it's more difficult than you think it would be," he said.

And for those who are serious about pursuing a career in acting, the experience of auditioning is always helpful, Hamilton said.

"I say, 'Go for it, go for it,'" he said. "Even if it doesn't work out this time, you can probably find some reason to say, 'OK, I'm going to do better next time and improve.'"

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/216TU0e

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