Hopefuls line up for TV show

BURBANK — Against odds of at least 12,000 to one, filmmakers in Burbank and Glendale are competing to get onto "On the Lot," a new reality show from director Steven Spielberg and producer/TV host Mark Burnett.

Casting calls end this month for the Fox Network film-based reality show, which premieres live on May 22.

When the cameras roll on the first episode of "On the Lot," 16 finalists will be in the running, charged with the task of producing new short films every week in a different genre.

Those who have been cast were sworn to secrecy, bound by contract and tempted with the chance to win a $1 million DreamWorks development deal to make their own movie.

The whole process had at least 30 Los Angeles County filmmakers in a tizzy last Wednesday night at a get-together at Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant in Burbank.

All of the directors from Burbank and Glendale are relatively new to the scene of live-action movie making and one, Corri Hunsperger, of Burbank, made his first short film, "The Interview," especially for the contest.

"The contest was the starting point," Hunsperger said.

He spent last summer shooting and editing his film, a roughly 5-minute short about a desperate woman with a twist ending.

The show's website features thousands of short films submitted for Spielberg and Burnett's approval with genres ranging from horror to romance.

Burbank director Andre Nieves submitted a mystery thriller about a man who goes on a die-hard search for the thieves of his beloved Ford Mustang.

Nieves has been chasing his dream of filmmaking for nearly a decade without any major, commercial success and hoped that "On the Lot" would provide him with a jump-start to his career.

But while he is hopeful, he holds no illusions about the business of Hollywood.

"When you start you have to do things yourself," Nieves said.

"And [with] big people like Spielberg, what they want to see is to look at you and look at your film and say, 'I could make money from this person.'

"If you fail, they don't want to know you anymore. So what if you go for it and then you don't make it?"

It's a question many of the filmmakers are asking themselves in these final days of the casting call for the show.

For Azita Zendel, of Los Angeles, who has maxed out several credit cards financing her book and film projects, working in the world of publishing and entertainment has been a struggle, she said.

But not making it on the show won't stop her from pursuing her Hollywood dreams, she said.

Given the worldwide scope of the search for talent, some of the filmmakers aren't holding out much hope of being cast.

John Mahoney, of Burbank, is not one of them. He said he thinks he has a one-in-10 chance of beating the odds and snagging a spot on "On the Lot."

He's got 10 years of experience in the business working on animated films and said he and his film, "Broken Doll," have what it takes to make it big.

For first-time Glendale director Carole Holliday, the contest was her time to step out of the world of animation and into the realm of live-action film.

Despite her desire to win the prize and the media exposure, Holliday isn't thrilled about even the slim chance of being on television for a prolonged period of time.

"It just seems like an opportunity to get to look silly in front of millions of people," Holliday said.

For more information about "On the Lot" and to view the films of the Burbank and Glendale participants, visit www.thelot.com.

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