George R. R. Martin, the renowned author of the Game of Thrones series of novels and owner of the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, New Mexico, will present the North American Cinema Premiere of The Callback Queen from February 7th 2014.
The Callback Queen is directed by award winning Irish filmmaker Graham Cantwell, with an Irish and international cast including Amy-Joyce Hastings, Mark Killeen, Eoin Macken, Seán T. O Meallaigh, Vicki Michelle and Ger Ryan.
The Callback Queen recently screened at the 25th Galway Film Fleadh and has had screenings at Leicester Square in London and in Luxembourg at the British and Irish Film Season.
Martin, who is also an executive producer on the Game of Thrones TV show, explains the series of events that have led to him presenting the North American premiere of The Callback Queen. “Hundreds of actors auditioned for roles both large and small in HBO’s Game of Thrones”, he says, “Only a handful were cast. Thousands more tried to get auditions, but were never given the chance to read. In the old days, aspiring stars sent off resumes and 8×10 glossies to directors, producers, and casting directors. They still do that, but these days some also upload their own auditions on Youtube, Vimeo, and similar sites on the internet. Amy-Joyce Hastingswas one of those, as I discovered one day when dozens of my fans and readers began to send me emails with links to a reading by a lovely young red-haired Irish actress that I’d never heard of.”
“I’ve been a big reader of fantasy novels since I was a little girl”, says Hastings, “and when I found out that a fantasy TV series based on Game of Thrones was going to be made by HBO I got very excited!” Hastings, who began her career as a child actress playing Julie Christie’s daughter in Fools of Fortune, got hold of the script and recorded an audition tape, which she posted online. Within two days the tape had thousands of views and fans of the books were discussing it on fansites like winteriscoming.net. “It caught me completely unawares. I had recorded this self tape as a speculative thing, never intending it to be seen by anyone except maybe the casting director, but it got an incredible amount of interest online, and I had some very encouraging feedback from people who’d seen it, which was a lovely surprise”, says Amy-Joyce.
Fans of the books were impressed enough to send the link to Martin. “They liked what she’d done”, he says, “and so did I, when curiosity drove me to click on one of those links and take a look. So I dropped her a note, told her the name of our casting director, wished her luck… and thought no more of it, until I heard about The Callback Queen.”
“Unfortunately the casting industry in London has a kind of heirarchy to it”, says Amy-Joyce, “and the
agent I was with at that time wasn’t ina position to capitalise on the momentum so I missed out on being
While she was disappointed not to have had the chance to audition, the experience did have a silver lining, as Martin explains, “Amy-Joyce never got to audition for Game of Thrones. That’s something she has in common with thousands of other actors from all over the world. Unlike all the others, however, Amy-Joyce took life’s lemons and made lemonade; she shared her experiences with her friend Graham Cantwell, an Irish filmmaker, who took her tale about a young actress attempting to land a role in an epic fantasy, and turned it into a movie… a romantic comedy about moviemakers and aspiring actors that pokes fun at the whole casting carousel… starring Amy-Joyce Hastings.”
“I had known Amy-Joyce for years and had always wanted to work with her on a large scale project”, says Cantwell, “I had been planning to write a comedy about young filmmakers but I lacked a narrative hook to tie the story together, so when Amy-Joyce told me about herexperience chasing a Game of Thrones audition it all clicked into place. We created a film within a film called Prince of Chaos, which was inspired by the TV series, and a character called Horatio King, who is loosely based on George.” Fast forward several months and production on The Callback Queen is well under way. “George had stayed in touch and I’d told him about the film”, says Hastings, “I emailed him a prop cover we had created for the Prince of Chaos book in our film and he posted it on his blog,which created a bit of a stir, as he didn’t give any context. He likes to tease his fans with clues about the series and they worked really hard to figure out what the cover was from. We thought it would be so obscure they’d never get it but fair play to them they figured it out extremely quickly, they followed the digital breadcrumbs and had it within hours.”
Filming on the Prince of Chaos sequences took place in Snowdonia in Wales. Director Cantwell was keen
to make the footage shine, “We wanted those scenes to look like they were from a big budget, epic Hollywood production like Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings, so we put a lot of our resources into them. We were operating on a very tight budget, so had to be quite clever to give the film within a film high production value. We brought in a friend of mine, actor Eoin Macken. He was friendly with horse master Dylan Jones from his time on Merlin, so he helped us put that together.” Macken’s star is on the rise, as he has recently been cast as the lead in a brand new NBC TV series Night Watch, which coincidentally is filming in New Mexico, where The Callback Queen screenings will take place.
“If you believe in serendipity, there have been lots of little coincidences and connections between our film and Game of Thrones”, continues Cantwell, “our leading man Mark Killeen had a significant role in season three. He played a character called Mero, a vile mercenary who insults Daenerys, the Mother of Dragons. Also, one of the Dothraki warriors on the show auditioned for the part of Prince Cal, which Eoin plays. So it’s wonderful that the whole story has come full circle. It’s a great honour to be recognised by someone of George’s calibre, his support means a lot for an independent production like ours.”
The Jean Cocteau is a wonderful independent arthouse cinema in Santa Fe, New Mexico that Martin purchased and re-opened in 2013 after it went dark in 2006. Managed by Santa Fe Film Festival founder Jon Bowman, the cinema shows a mixture of classic films and first run movies, and is renowned for having the best popcorn for miles!
“I’m really looking forward to the experience”, says Amy-Joyce, “I’m sure American audiences will take to
the film the way they have in Ireland and Europe, it’s very funny and anyone with an interest in the film
industry will love it. We’re taking it to LA immediately after the premiere to look for distribution, so hopefully we’ll be able to get The Callback Queen out to the greater public very soon.”
Says Martin, “I’m delighted to be able to present the North American premiere of The Callback Queen at
the Jean Cocteau Cinema here in Santa Fe, and thrilled that I will finally get to meet Amy-Joyce Hastings
and Graham Cantwell (even though they never asked me to audition for the role of Horatio King).”
The Callback Queen is produced by Film Venture London in association with RCA Media Productions.
As soon as I watched Anton I could see that Graham Cantwell is Ireland’s answer to Jean Cocteau!