Good Luck: Or How Ellen Pompeo Wound Up in My First Film and What Does That Have to Do with A Life’s Work
Posted By David Licata on February 1, 2013
The other day I watched an excellent web series called Planet X, directed by Jacob Hensberry and written and produced by Jake and Ken Cook. I know Jake, so I emailed him and complimented him, his cast, and crew on a job very well done. Jake replied, “Thanks so much! Really glad you enjoyed it. We certainly worked very hard on it and I got pretty lucky with my cast.”
I was about to blast off an email scolding him for using the word “luck.” Luck seems to me a dismissive word, as if talent, drive, learning, hard work, and stick-to-it-ive-ness had nothing to do with success. After all, he and Ken wrote the parts, had people in mind, did some casting, held auditions, and made choices. “Luck, if there is such a thing,” I was going to write Jake, “favors the prepared.” But I didn’t write that email because my timer went off reminding my that my clothes were dry.
As I folded my socks, I thought about luck and casting, and I remembered how Ellen Pompeo wound up in my first film, 8 1/2 x 11. (Watch it!) We were about to cast the film and I had a look in mind for “Human Resources Woman,” but not a specific actress. One night, I was watching television and a Visa commercial came on. It featured a young actress who looked and acted exactly like what I imagined this character to look and act like. I turned to the woman I was living with at the time, K., and said, “That woman would be perfect in the film!” K., who was a make-up artist, said, “I just did a shoot with her yesterday. She seemed really nice. I have her number. I could ask her.”
She did. Ellen auditioned (this was 1999, before she was on Grey’s Anatomy and before her break out role in Midnight Mile) and she was fantastic.
So, luck. Think of all the things that had to happen in order for Ellen to wind up in 8 1/2 x 11. Ellen has to get cast in a Visa commercial and it has to run as I’m casting my film. I had to be watching TV (which I rarely did/do). I had to be with a make up artist who just happened to recently work with Ellen and become friendly with her. Ellen had to be amenable to auditioning for a goofy short film about going on job interviews. These are just the first things that come to mind. I could follow this thread back in time a long, long way.
So, luck? Maybe. Had I not seen Ellen on TV that day, some other actress would have been cast and who knows what would have happened then? I was very happy to work with Ellen at the time. And yes, I felt lucky, too. But that luck is different from the kind of luck one feels looking back. Maybe luck is something you see in the rearview mirror.
Which brings me to A Life’s Work. I know I am lucky to be making this film, with the fine people who are in it and the exceptional people who are making it with me. But I have a feeling when it’s done (when? WHEN?!?!), when I look back at it, I will be astounded at just how lucky I was.
How about you, feeling lucky?
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