Jenny Manrique

It’s not a joke, not a scam, or at least not at this stage of the casting. The producers said that close to 100 people auditioned this weekend to win a role in 94110, a proposed TV production that “imagines the story of six leading technology executives living, learning, and loving together in San Francisco’s Mission District.”

Although their Facebook page reported fewer – some 46 people confirmed their attendance at the casting call – the auditions seemed steady on Sunday, the second day of the casting call.

The line in front of the SFAQ Project Space in the heart of the Tenderloin varied between 5 to 10. Inside the recently opened art space, another group of 15 fairly diverse candidates waited to audition.

Some of the attendees gave submissions online, but most of the casting, was first come, first serve. When the room filled up, a guy dealing with the participants outside, gave them a numbered ticket to return for a later appointment.

“My fiancee told me about the audition and I just wanted to see how my luck would work out,” said Johnas Street, an actor and American idol finalist whose credits include some TV shows on BET and an appearance in the James Brown bio Get on Up. “I worked for Intel (as an analyst), so I guess I am pretty knowledgable about the tech industry,” he added with a big smile.

Both seasoned and rookie actors could read the script online or find copies inside to cast for one of the six leads: the spazzy neurotic boss, the ambitious smart entrepreneur, the socially awkward engineer, the timorous hard working programmer, the sharp techie always there for the gang, or the likable Bro with not much talent. The three supporting characters include a venture capitalist, a super confident guy who uses guerrilla marketing for his apps, and one struggling Mission neighbor, who works insane hours and hustles to make the monthly rent.

Most of the roles are not gender specific, but there were only a few women there on Sunday to audition.

Here is the monologue Dan Raile, a veteran as an extra in a couple of student films, read for his audition as the Mission neighbor.

“It’s more like, what job have I not had to cover rent over here? When have I only had one job? Never. This is 2015. I guess this is what is normal now. Of course, I fucking love the freedom of the 1099 economy. Probably as free as all my clients out on the Playa, bro. But twelve bucks an hour isn’t so great if you’re spending all day running around dropping off socks for software engineers.”

Photo by Jenny Manrique
Photo by Jenny Manrique

Before he walked into the audition Raile said, “There are not a lot of opportunities for non-union acting in SF, so I thought it would be interesting thing to try out..I think it’s possible to represent the tech industry’s impact on the Mission reflecting reality, and art reflecting reality is a goal. I think the whole polemic about the techies and the neighborhood is a little bit putting the cart before the horse.” The polemic Raile was referring to was the negative reaction to the casting call on Facebook.

“I have lived in the Mission for eight years, and I had to move out last year because all of the gentrification issues… so it caught my attention that someone is making something like this,” said Cameron L., who said he had no acting experience, but had appeared in a few music videos.

The team behind the TV show, is aware of the controversy. One of the producers, who referred to himself as Michael F., said that he understands “people just get mad if you said the word ‘techie’ you said that, you push the wrong buttons.”

He insisted that he and all the production team are Mission residents and have their own opinions about the changes in the neighborhood – changes that will be portrayed in the show.

“This is not social realism, we don’t want to to talk down to anyone, there’s not going to be any condescending populistic messages in it (the show),” he said. “But we do take a critical lens. It’s going to be a little different; it’s going to be a little bit absurd…I think it’s been really interesting how people just assume that this is a project that lionizes tech executives, but I will add that it is not necessarily a project that condemns them either.”

Although they are planning to start production in the summer, financial support is still in the exploration phase. They declined to give more details on financing, meaning it is too soon to know if 94110 will even fly. But, as one of the supporting characters says in the script: “You gotta be careful at some point. If you introduce progress or innovation into any community, how does the community react? Not always the best. So, test that shit. Don’t fear the pivot.”

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