'We've met some wonderful personalities': Casting search for film of hit Sheffield musical Everybody's Talking About Jamie passes halfway point
Hopefuls who want to land aÂ role in the film adaptation of hit Sheffield-set musical Everybody's Talking About Jamie have just over three weeks to send in audition tapes - as producers say they have met 'wonderful personalities'Â in their search for young actors.
The show - which premiered at the Crucible last year, has transferred to the West End and tells the story of an openly gay 16-year-old boy who aspires to be a drag queen - is being turned into a movie by city company Warp Films, led by the original creators including Park Hill-born Jonathan Butterell, who directed the stage show and is now taking on his first cinema feature.
An open casting call was launched at the end of May to find up to 30 actors who will play Jamie's class at school, with applications invited from unknowns and professionals who live in South Yorkshire or its surrounds, are aged 16 or above and look young enough to play a year 11 pupil. Among the class of 30 will be the main parts such as Jamie, his best friend Pritti and Dean, the bully.
The casting team has gone to schools, youth and community groups to seek out hidden talent, with visits to Shiregreen, Bradfield, Hillsborough and Longley still to come.
"The casting call has attracted attention from across the country, but the team are thrilled that the vast majority of submissions so far have come from young people from the local community," said Megan Marie Griffith, the film's Northern casting co-ordinator.
Candidates are being asked to upload minute-long videos - telling producers about themselves - to a special website. The number of auditionees so far is being kept under wraps, to prevent shyer teenagers from feeling discouraged. However, footage of a launch event last month has been viewed more than 13,000 times online, and the Jamie film's social media accounts have amassed hundreds of followers.
"The open submission website received a similarly impressive amount of traffic and has remained popular since," said Megan. "So far the casting has received widespread interest with lots of submissions received already."
But she added: "The team reiterate that there really is no 'type' of 16-year-old they are looking for, nor a limit to the search in terms of number of submissions, encouraging those interested to submit even if they are nervous or unsure. All submissions will be considered equally."
The award-winning show was inspired by a 2011 BBC Three documentary - Drag Queen at 16 - about Jamie Campbell, from County Durham. Jonathan, who caught the programme while channel-hopping, saw something of himself in the teenager’s search for identity, and began collaborating with writer Tom MacRae and composer Dan Gillespie-Sells, of The Feeling, after he learned they were trying to write a musical.
The stage cast, led by John McCrea as the central character Jamie New, has been screen-tested, but the team is not saying whether any will appear in the movie. The musical has extended its stint at London’s Apollo Theatre until April 2019, and the present stars could be called on if - as has been mooted - the show goes to Broadway.
A diverse Year 11 class is sought, reflecting life in Sheffield today, and the star will not necessarily be a double of McCrea or Campbell, raising the prospect of an Asian or black Jamie.
Megan said: "Though the team hope to cast principal and minor roles from young people seen during this initial search, at this stage they are focused on meeting as many different interesting personalities as possibly, rather than young people moulding themselves to fit a particular role they may be aware of."
She also emphasised the search's local focus; tapes from further afield may be watched at a later stage. "The ability to do an authentic Sheffield accent is of key importance to the film and the company wants to root the production in Sheffield as much as possible."
Together with Film4, Warp is making what will be its first ever musical. Filming is to begin in Sheffield in spring 2019 - eventually producers will be casting for the whole movie, with the need for an entire school at some point, giving younger extras the opportunity to get involved.
"Already the team have met some wonderful personalities and can’t wait to see where else and to whom the rest of the process leads them," said Megan.
In the meantime the musical will be broadcast live from the Apollo to more than 500 cinemas across the UK and Ireland next Thursday, July 5, at 7.20pm. See www.jamieincinemas.com to book tickets.