Four Students Selected to Act in Short Film

October 21, 2011 / by / 2 Comments

By Jennifer Willis
Communications Staff

GCU theatre students got the experience of a lifetime on Thursday when they attended a casting call on campus for a short film.

For students accustomed to performing, that might not seem like such a big deal, except that the film they were auditioning for is being directed by a Baldwin brother.

(l to r) William Wyss, Adam Benavides, Stephen Baldwin, Josh VanderPoel and Micah DeShazer.

Yes, those Baldwins.

The youngest member of the famous acting family, Stephen, visited campus to assist Maria Yano, the film’s screenwriter and producer, in the selection process for the four actors who will play the characters in the film.

“I put out a call to several different universities,” Yano said. “GCU was one of the ones that responded, and after speaking with acting instructor Michael Kary, GCU sounded perfect. It was the right match.”

Filming also will be done by Assistant Professor Gregg Elder and his film students on Saturday at Yano’s house in Gilbert.

Chosen for parts in the film were sophomore Adam Benavides and freshmen Micah DeShazer, Josh VanderPoel and William Wyss. Film students of Elder’s involved in the shoot are Samantha Leiding, Samantha Erdmann, Bryce Bowen, Taylor Waymire and Janna Srutowski.

“This will be an invaluable experience for all of them,” Kary said. “They are going to learn a lot from it.”

The film, a comedy titled “Cognac,” was written by Yano two years ago but had a completely different feel from the current piece. Based on a conversation she had with her cousin several years ago about a $30,000 bottle of cognac, the original screenplay was about a boyfriend and girlfriend instead of a group of male friends.

“I wasn’t comfortable with it at first,” Yano said. “So I sat on it for couple of years, and when I eventually came back to it, I completely re-wrote it. It happened to land in Stephen’s hands through a friend of a friend, and he helped to make it funnier.”

Baldwin liked the opportunity to sign on to the project and work with students.

“We’re not necessarily trying to find the next Marlon Brando here,” he told the group in his introduction. “But it is my hope that everyone is able to learn and take away something from this process.”

“The great part about this profession is that we don’t know what we’re doing is going to mean anything to anyone else but us. But that’s the process of the art.”

Yano hopes to be able to submit the finished piece to the Cannes, Sundance and Austin film festivals. She’s also looking at the Toronto festival as a possibility.

“If the film is selected for one of the festivals, it will open the door to a world of opportunities for the cast and crew,” Yano said. “I’m really hoping to help give these kids a boost in their careers.”

As for Baldwin, he’s just hoping that the students have some fun.

“That’s the most important part for an actor,” he said. “If you’re not having fun doing this, then you shouldn’t be wasting your time.”

Reach Jennifer Willis at 639.7383 or

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2 Responses
  1. Laurie Trlak

    See, this is what I miss, being an online student in the Midwest, rather than a ground student in Phoenix!

    Nov.01.2011 at 12:44 pm
  2. Jim

    Josh Vanderpoel was very good as Dr. Van Helsing in the GCU fall play of “Dracula”. He gives a fantastic performance in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” as Bottom.

    Feb.18.2012 at 9:15 am
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