(Posted May 12, 2016)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
Ever want to be in the movies? Now’s your chance.
Aaron Garrett, a 2007 Madison-Plains graduate now working in Los Angeles as an actor-director, is shooting a feature-length film in London June 8-27. He’s looking to cast 200 extras plus a few minor roles with speaking parts. Most scenes will be shot at night on South Main Street in downtown London.
“Everybody is showing us a lot of support thus far,” Garrett said, citing permission from city government to film in the streets and donation of props and vehicles from various local sources.
“An independent with our budget isn’t usually able to film on Main Street, get police support, use military vehicles… We’re getting a lot of cool opportunities to do amazing things.”
Garrett’s film, tentatively titled “Last Riot: Madison,” is a family drama set in a small town where police and protesters are clashing. The stars of the story are kids who want to escape this backdrop. When one of them is kidnapped, the action turns to rescue efforts.
“I wrote it two years ago and used London in my head for the background in my story,” Garrett said, adding that it only made sense to then shoot it in London.
In addition to extras to act as police and protesters, Garrett needs helpers behind the scenes, including production assistants to set up food and assist cameramen. He’s already heard from one local resident who plans to lend a hand as a makeup artist. Because the budget is tight, none of the positions are paid, but Garrett hopes his hometown will volunteer their support in his first go at making a feature-length film.
“The goal is to get it sold to a production company that does independent films,” he said. He’s hoping for interest from the likes of Netflix, with nationwide distribution and a chance to make his mark.
From pro-wrestling to movie-making
Garrett’s path to movie-making has been interesting, to say the least.
“When I graduated from high school, I wanted to be a professional wrestler,” he said.
So, he moved to Florida where he trained with the WWE farm team. At tryouts a year later, organizers told him he needed to be bigger. He moved back to Ohio to bulk up, and that’s when friends somewhat randomly said he should try acting.
Garrett had never thought about acting before, but figured he’d give it a shot. He came across a casting call for “Super 8” helmed by J.J. Abrams, director of the latest Star Wars movie. Filming was taking place in West Virginia. Garrett saw the casting notice five hours before it started. He hopped in his car.
“They were looking for extras. At the time, I had long, blond hair for wrestling. The movie was set in the 1970s, so I was a shoe-in,” he said.
With similar looks to one of the main actors, Garrett also served as a film double and stand-in. At the end of shooting two months later, he asked if he could help with the rest of the filming, set to take place in California. The assistant director said, “Sure, if you can get yourself out there.” Once again, Garrett hopped in his car.
Unaware the cast and crew were taking a long break over Thanksgiving, Garrett lived in his car for a month and a half, unable to make contact.
“The day I decided to leave, on my way home, I got a call that I might get a call the next day,” he said.
He did, but it wasn’t for an acting part. He served as a production assistant, guarding a door on set for one 15-hour stint. He then stayed on to help with anything he could.
“The assistant director saw the effort and set me up with a casting director to do stand-in and double work,” he said.
Bitten by the acting bug and a card carrying member of the Actors Union, Garrett threw himself into learning more about his new craft. He went to acting school in New York, Chicago, Columbus and Pittsburgh.
A few years later, his casting connection called him about an opportunity on the set of the wrestling biopic, “Foxcatcher,” starring Steve Carell and Channing Tatum.
“I had wrestled at Madison-Plains and was a state qualifier a few years, so I kinda knew what I was doing when I got there,” he said.
From 100s who tried out, Garrett was one of a handful chosen to act in some of the wrestling scenes. Filming took place over several months in 2012 in Pittsburgh. During that time, Garrett and the other extras got to wrestle around with the film’s stars.
“As it turned out, they barely used the stuff we were in. I ended up just in the background,” Garrett said. “But with both ‘Super 8’ and ‘Foxcatcher,’ an extra part became something more. Extras usually don’t eat with the cast and crew and don’t know the big picture of the movie, but we did and we got to hang out with the stars.”
In an effort to flesh out his acting resumé, Garrett moved to California two years ago. He landed a few small parts before deciding to make and star in his own short film.
“Debt Comes Due” is a 15-minute piece about a man down on his luck who decides to rob a diner but runs into an eccentric man with a vendetta against gangbangers. The two team up as anti-heroes.
“Nobody buys short films. You make them as a ‘business card.’ It’s a way for people to see that I can act and that I’m more than an extra,” Garrett said.
People in the industry are taking notice. “Debt Comes Due” will be shown at the Cannes Film Festival in France later this month.
Locally, the State Theater in London showed the short in April. Garrett attended, using the occassion to inform the community about his new feature-length project.
“I’m really, really excited not only to bring my movie to life, but to be directing and not just writing and acting,” he said. “I have a smaller part in it, so I can focus on directing.”
Release of the finished product will depend on funding. Garrett said he plans to hold a kickstarter campaign to raise money. His goal is $40,000. If he needs to pay for it himself, the finishing process will take more time, he said.
“I’d like to see it released by the spring of 2017,” he said.
To inquire about being an extra or production assistant for “Last Riot: Madison,” email email@example.com or visit “Last Riot: Madison Movie” on Facebook.