It isn’t often college students aspiring to become actors or actresses are given the chance to star in lead film roles, said Kieran Thompson, director of “Broken Leg.”
However, Thompson and producer Case Barden took a chance on ASU theater junior Sarah Sawyer for their feature film’s quirky lead character, Karla.
“People told me I was crazy to cast an actress who was still in school, but Sarah was dedicated and nailed the role,” Thompson said.
“Broken Leg” is a film about a recent college graduate, Karla, who is drowning in student loan debt. After an unsuccessful job hunt, she decides that the best way to avoid paying back her loans is to go to graduate school. However, she needs her older sister, Kate, to co-sign another loan for school. In order to show her sister that she is responsible, Karla decides to help take care of her brother-in-law, Theo. Theo, who is expecting a baby along with Kate, has other plans and wants to party before becoming a father. Karla and Theo are sent on a whirlwind weekend full of trials and learning experiences.
Auditions for the role of Karla were held both in Phoenix, where the film was to take place, and in Los Angeles. The director and producer decided to steer away from the traditional practice of a script audition and turned to improvisation.
“For the role, we wanted someone who was able to think on their feet, to show creativity and ambition. This was essential to our film,” Barden said.
Those trying out for the role of Karla were given a scene in which Karla won three tickets to a Foster the People concert but couldn’t get in because her friends were underage. They were told to try to get past the bouncer and into the concert.
Sawyer, a member of the Lyric Opera Theatre on campus, took the opportunity to broaden her acting horizon.
“I was really nervous since the audition was improvisation, but the relaxed structure gives you so many opportunities to play around with comedy,” Sawyer said. “I went into the audition thinking I’m trying to get into the concert, yet I purposely used tactics that weren’t at all efficient to getting in. It gives the needed comedy to the situation.”
“The things Sarah did during the audition were way out there but were really grounded,” Thompson said. “She did what someone would actually do, that were ridiculous and goofy … and Sarah nailed it.”
Casting a current student taking 20 credit hours into a role that requires weeks of long, 14-hour days of filming was a challenge for the director and producer, but they said they believe what Sawyer gave to the character of Karla was special.
The relationship between Karla and Theo in the film is not a typical one. The sister and brother-in-law relationship sets the film up for tons of comedy and even a few heartfelt moments. However, having a female lead posed some challenges to the appearance of the film.
“You don’t really often see female protagonists, and it’s a challenge because audiences will judge female protagonists differently than males,” Thompson said. “Sarah’s character will prove to people you don’t always have to have a male lead role.”
The film also touches on the challenges many college students are facing today. Many students can relate to taking out loans to pay for high tuition costs and the feeling of uncertainty for the future.
“Before ‘Broken Leg,’ I was usually drawn to characters who are very different than I am, but the interesting thing is when this film came up in my life, where I’m playing a girl who is struggling and her life is in a rut, I kind of felt that’s where I was as well,” Sawyer said. “And I think other people, especially fellow college students, can relate to and understand Karla’s situation.”
Donned in a pink horse shirt (which began as a joke), Karla will give audiences many laughs. “Broken Leg” is now in post-production and is set to premiere in the spring.
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