Back in 2010, Michigan's film industry was booming. One of the products of that glut of new business was the baseball film "Home Run Showdown," which makes its premier Friday, July 27, at the Star 20 Southfield. But this is more than just another Michigan production. It’s a Grosse Pointe connection.
Curt Howe, who runs Charlie's Talent Agency's Michigan location, recently moved the company's office from Ferndale to . Howe represents Emma-Lee Hess, who stars in this fun, yet touching movie about kids, baseball and hope. Hess plays the role of "Fassi," a girl determined to be the best baseball player in the home run contest. Howe also represents a number of supporting cast members, including children Conner Wise, Anthony Talley and Joshua Saba, along with adult actor Carlos Faison.
“There were more than 3,000 kids from around this area who auditioned for this movie,” Howe said, referring to the targeted auditions as well as the general casting calls. In the end, it was Hess who most impressed Detroit Casting Company’s Dayna Polehanki and Secret Handshake Entertainment's Dena Hysel, just a few months after Hess joined Charlie’s Talent Agency.
“It’s so nice to have someone like Curt represent me,” said Hess, who spent time in Los Angeles in her attempt to land roles. “For auditions Curt can put us on tape right from his office. That makes it a whole lot easier than taking time off school to drive to Chicago for a 30-second audition.”
After landing her role in “Home Run Showdown,” Hess, who is from Grass Lake (near Chelsea) also landed a part in the Hallmark Channel’s movie “Smooch.”
“Emma is really a great kid,” Howe said. “She’s not the kind of person who’s out to be a star. She just likes being a normal kid, going to school, playing volleyball and acting.”
But being a good actress is more than knowing how to deliver a line, give a look and emit the energy of a character. For Hess, this job included learning to play a sport … quickly.
The character “Fassi” is a phenomenal baseball player. But Hess never played baseball before.
“I got a call on a Friday telling me that Emma needed to do a screen test on Monday, and to show up with her bat and glove,” Howe explained. “Emma didn’t have a bat and glove. She had never played baseball. I told her mom that I knew someone who could work with her over the weekend to develop those skills. She knew someone there in Chelsea, so that’s what they did. By Monday, Emma was a pro.”
Hess worked with her brother’s baseball coach, Adam Taylor, who taught her the basics of hitting, fielding and even throwing a curve. She had to “look like a pro” as she is one of the few girls in the movie filled with baseball-playing boys.
Like Hess, Howe is always looking to improve his game, which included the move from Ferndale to Grosse Pointe Park. Not only is it close to his home in the Park, but he is also closer to a deeper talent pool than in Ferndale, he said.
“I can meet with the actors a lot quicker being here,” Howe said. “Besides, I am surrounded by the arts more in Grosse Pointe than in Ferndale. We have Grosse Pointe Theatre right here. I enjoy going there to see the talent that is available. I also just spoke at the Grosse Pointe Dance Center.”
While the Michigan film industry has taken its financial hits after the 2009 and 2010 heyday, there are signs pointing to more business here. Effective October 1, Michigan’s film incentive program will increase to $50 million, up from $25 million. Though it is a far cry from the “no cap” incentive prior to the Snyder administration, it is a move in the right direction for Howe, Hess and others interested in the film industry.
As an aside, for those children wanting to participate in their own home run competition, the Southfield Center Field, located at 26000 Evergreen is hosting a Home Run Showdown on Thursday, July 26, from 5 to 7 p.m. Registration begins at the field beginning at 4:30 p.m.