Jay appears in the hybrid documentary Casting JonBenet. Directed by Kitty Green, and produced by Scott Macaulay and James Schamus, Casting JonBenet was acquired by Netflix two weeks before its world premiere at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.
Jay also wrote and performed Fly on Home: for JonBenet and others as part of his preparation for filming Casting JonBenet.
Below is a log of events surrounding Jay’s participation in Casting JonBenet.
SOME SPECIAL EVENTS:
BBC FEB 2017 REVIEW MENTION
Jay is specifically mentioned in the BBC Feb 2017 review of Casting JonBenet, although not by name: “When one of the better actors to try out for John explains his reasons for participating he says that though it’s a ghoulish thing to do, it’s “better than nothing”, and maybe, in some obscure way “it would help.” But by that he of course means “help with solving the still-open murder case” and that is not, nor ever was Green’s agenda here.”
A candid of the crowd lined up to attend the Casting JonBenet premiere at Sundance 2017. The cast was in the green room, which was essentially a balcony overlooking the lobby of the Temple Theater in Park City, UT.
Just minutes prior to the Sundance 2017 premiere, the producers, crew, and actors are ushered in front of the photographers for Getty Images. Most of these gentlemen are other John Ramsey / John Ramsey Auditionees / Himself’s. Jay had placed a clause in his contract that no promo or behind the scenes photos would show him smiling. He considered the project a solemn one and never forgot it only existed because a little girl lost her life way too early.
The day of the Sundance 2017 involved a lot of interviews for Kitty and her voice was feeling the effects of this. But she still makes the point “There are so many films about JonBenet Ramsey and what we wanted to do was something so different.”
A common reaction was conveyed on cinemablend.com “The fact is, it’s not clear whether this scene is of an actual girl named Hanah who was auditioning, or whether this is a girl playing somebody named Hanah who wants to get the part. ” Dirk Libbey of cinemablend.com. The article was headlined with“The First Clip From Netflix’s JonBenet Ramsey Documentary Is Totally Unnerving”. Other sites labeled the teaser “creepy” or “chilling”.
Stephen Garrett of the Observer names Casting JonBenet in the Top 10 Buzzed-About Movies for Sundance 2017. The company is pretty intimidating…Salma Hayek, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck, Mary-Louise Parker, John C. Reilly, Al Gore, Cate Blanchett, and Robert Redford.
Michael Phillips from the Chicago Tribune lists his top 5 most anticipated films for Sundance 2017 in this article.“U.S. Documentary Competition. Director Kitty Green explores the “collective memories and mythologies” tied to the unsolved death of the 6-year-old beauty pageant winner. World premiere.”
In this IndieWire article, Casting JonBenet director Kitty Green was cited as one of the breakout stars for the Sundance Film Festival 2017. “Do we really need or want another documentary about JonBenet Ramsey? The same thing was said about O.J. Simpson before Ezra Edelman turned the tabloid tragedy into a masterpiece about America and race. The feeling in the doc community is that Kitty Green is a director with the type of unique voice and point of view who can do the same with the infamous story of the unsolved murder of the six-year-old beauty queen.”
Casting JonBenet was the first distribution deal of the Sundance Film Festival 2017. It was purchased by Netflix two weeks prior to even appearing at Sundance. From the article on Indiewire.com: “Kitty boldly embraces the tradition of innovative risk-taking within the documentary filmmaking mode with her remarkable work on Casting JonBenet,” said Netflix VP of Original Documentary Programming Lisa Nishimura.
The first of many “best of” lists for Casting JonBenet was in this article on nonfics.com.Christopher Campbell wrote “Because Casting JonBenet deals with a subject that is more appealing and intriguing to American audiences — the still mysterious death of JonBenet Ramsey — it should break Green into the mainstream,…”
The acceptance into the Berlin International Film Festival (shown here in an article in the Hollywood Reporter) established Casting JonBenet on the international stage. The mention of Casting JonBenet right under the headline was a good sign, too.
Jay was not surprised Casting JonBenet had been accepted to Sundance. Kitty Green’s prior success there had made that seem likely. What was new and surprising was in the LA Times article about Sundance, they headlined the article with the photo from Casting JonBenet! This suddenly indicated the film was not just another indie film, but one with some actual heat behind it.
These auditions happened just a few days after the 1st callbacks. At this point, it was clear this was not an ordinary process. Usually an actor sees many fewer other actors at each stage of callbacks as most have been eliminated from the process. But clearly many of the same people from the first auditions were still auditioning, so the callbacks didn’t appear to really be eliminating anyone. It would later become clear these were really more interviews than auditions and would become much of the core of Casting JonBenet.
After the first audition in July of 2015, Kitty Green had periodically sent out emails to the auditioners that the project was still a go. In January of 2016 came the email setting up a second audition (a callback in theater/film terms).
Jay was on a callback for a commercial when Brian McCulley of Hamilton Casting pulled him into an office and pitched the audition to him. The audition occurred the following Saturday. Jay remembers wearing a suit in order to look as much like a high-powered business executive as possible, but when he arrived, was asked to change clothes. He remembers insisting the casting director (which was actually the director Kitty Green) see him in his business attire before he would change out of it. His experience in auditioning for low-budget, indie films had not been particularly fruitful to this point, so he asserted himself in a fairly unconventional way for an auditioning actor to behave. At this point, all Jay knew was this was yet another indie film that would audition for talent and then never come up with the funding to actually shoot anything.
Once the hour long audition process was over (most first auditions are 5 minutes, tops), it was clear something was very different about this project….