FIRST TIME ON SET (EVER)
Updated: Jul 19, 2021
"HOW DID YOU BEGIN ACTING?" We get asked this question often.
It all started with Michaela and Marvel Studios.
In June of 2017, at the age of 8 (almost 9) Michaela said she wanted to pursue acting.
One day Michaela asked "How old do you have to be to work?".
Mom's reply: "Probably age 16 when you can get a work permit."
That was the wrong answer.
Michaela took the iPad and researched how old you have to be to begin work as an actor. She showed the results to us.
"See, you can be my age and be working. There are kids my age working as actors and getting paid," she said.
There was nothing we could say. She discovered on her own that she could begin the path of acting now.
WHY DO THIS? THE REASON BEHIND IT ALL:
She wanted to begin work now so she could do more things later. International projects, political campaigns, other campaigns and more were part of this motivation.
Additionally, performances at home were routine at our house. Michaela and her little brother would recreate performances by Justin Bieber or Michael Jackson all the time.
As for Justin Bieber concerts in our house...this is all thanks to Dad's friend Melvin aka MellyMel. He was Justin's drummer for two world tours. We wanted to watch him drum and when we pulled his YouTube clips up, both Michaela and Brasher discovered they would recreate these performances--from turning kitchen cabinets into drum sets to making the living room a stage. (Before that, they weren't a fan of Justin).
Their desire to perform was innate.
NO IDEA WHERE TO BEGIN!?!
It's not like you can just go walk onto a TV/film set. (Unless you have family or friends in the industry).
Since we had NO formal training (yet), NO professional headshots, NO friends or family who were actors, NO connections to the industry...we had NO idea where to begin.
Step ONE for us: find an acting workshop or class. We found a workshop to audit to see if it was something Michaela and/or Brasher would like. They did.
Step TWO: gain experience working on a set. We could sign the kids up to do background/extra work, but would it be worth it? Some say no, we say yes.
The first day of the acting workshop we met a dad whose little boy in the class with Brasher. He told us how he had been working at Marvel doing stunts. (We didn't even know Marvel filmed in Atlanta!).
He told us he worked as an extra a while back. His experience and training in performance driving and firearms / explosives led him to soon became a professional stunt double. He told us there are opportunities for kids to be extras in local tv/film projects and it's a great way to learn about how a set works, the terminology, set etiquette and more. Since so much was filming in Atlanta, why not.
We registered with one of the local casting agencies in order to be placed in their database for 'extra' work.
NEVER IMAGINED WHERE WE WOULD BE TWO WEEKS LATER
Two weeks later, we received a call from the casting agency asking if Michaela would be interested in being a photo double for a young actress in a movie that was about to begin filming in Atlanta. She apparently was a match in height, hair color, and weight/size of this young actress.
We had no idea what film (they often go by code names while filming). We didn't even know movies had photo doubles, but we know it would be a good opportunity to learn. We said yes to working on (code name) 'Cherry Blue'.
It turned out to be Marvel's Ant-Man and The Wasp that was about to begin filming and she would be the photo double for Ant-Man's daughter ‘Cassie Lang’ played by Abby Ryder Fortson.
Working at Marvel was an experience that changed everything for Michaela.
A LITTLE GIRL IN A BIG INDUSTRY
Michaela walked through the gates at Marvel for a screen test. (The tall double iron gates you have to walk through! That's after going through gated security with more than one security guard who already have your name on the list for entry. That's the one entry point in amid tall fences with sharp wire edges).
We were lucky to walk through these double gates with a girl who was very nice. We learned later she was Evangeline Lilly's stunt double.
Even photo doubles go through an audition type process on a set like this. The local casting agencies don't make the decision who gets booked. The Directors and Assistant Directors often do. Casting might provide a list of potentially 20 or so matches of what the production is looking for. Production chooses who they want to see.
Michaela started as a photo double and got called in later to do stand-in work. She got to help set up the scenes, set up marks, lighting, cameras for every child actress in the film. She got to help set up the scenes for Young Evangeline Lilly, Young Ava, Young Michelle Pfeiffer.
It was her front row seat to watch and learn from some of the best in the industry - both in front of and behind the camera.
Michaela fell in love with being on set.
She took it very seriously and we went forward with all the next formal steps: Enroll in on-camera acting classes, private coaching, professional headshots, learn about agents, etc.
Her little brother soon followed.
TWO LITTLE KIDS IN A BIG WORLD
Michaela worked at Marvel while Ant-Man and The Wasp filmed from August to the end of October 2017. She finished her last day at Marvel the last week in October. The following Monday we received a call asking if Brasher was available to come in for a camera test as a photo double for a little boy on First Man.
A few days later we were at Tyler Perry's studios in Atlanta for a fitting to be the photo double for one of the young astronaut's kids.
It's almost as if it were perfect timing.
Since then, both Michaela and Brasher signed with one of Atlanta's top agencies, booked national, regional and local commercials, PSAs, music videos, and more. Michaela has a co-star role in a major production coming out this fall (2019) as well as two movies with lead roles.
It's a lot of work, the days can be long, and it takes a tremendous amount of commitment--from the entire family. However, when a kid discovers on their own what they love, it takes on a life of its own.
PURE COINCIDENCE (or PURELY MAGICAL)
We found out later that Evangeline Lilly ('The Wasp') began doing work as an extra in her early career. If it was good enough for her, it was good enough for us.
Furthermore, her life is committed to cause much greater than herself. She writes books for children, raises awareness about causes important to her, engages in international humanitarian work...and so much more. (All the things that inspire Michaela, before she ever stepped onto set or even knew who Evangeline Lilly was!).
Evangeline Lilly was the first actress Michaela ever met in person. We think it's purely magical that her first window into the entertainment industry was one where she could watch not only a great actor in ‘reel’ life, but a great person in REAL life.
WHY WE DIDN'T WATCH MARVEL MOVIES BEFORE THIS
Would anyone ever believe Michaela and Brasher that they hadn't seen a Marvel movie prior to this? Michaela didn't know who Evengeline Lilly was when she sat across from her at the very first camera test.
Here is why we didn’t know who Ant-Man was...or other Marvel characters:
Little brother was a little too young to watch PG-13 movies (a few too many swear words and a bit much fighting for little kids). Therefore, we hadn't watched Marvel movies...or any other PG-13 movies yet.
Michaela watched our first Marvel movie being made in the studio--in real life, not in theaters. We will never look at movies the same again!
The Directors, Assistant Directors, PAs, camera operators, hair/makeup, wardrobe, drivers, crafty, set teachers, set decorators, security and more...that's like watching a movie in and of itself. There’s so much to see and learn.
The three months that Michaela got to work on set at Marvel....a special thank you to everyone who made it possible. It set the direction of her future.
Forever inspired by what she learned on the set of Marvel's Ant-Man and The Wasp. One day in the future, she wanted to be back at Marvel Studios.
Thank you, Marvel.