Casting JonBenet

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.

As preparation for some of the more intense scenes, Jay used a special playlist on an iPod to create the emotional space he needed. Here is a link to that playlist: Jay’s Playlist from the Casting JonBenet shoot

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.



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.”




Sundance – Premiere Crowd Candid – Jan 2017

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.

Sundance – Jay in Press Photography – Getty Images – Jan 2017

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.

First Casting JonBenet Teaser Exclusive to The Today Show – Jan 2017

The Today Show was the exclusive venue for release of the first Casting JonBenet teaser to the world. See Carson Daly’s introduction to the spot here. This was the first release  to national television and then it was instantly released to all media world-wide. Netflix also posted it to YouTube quite quickly, amd that full video is below.

A common reaction was conveyed on “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  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”.

Kitty Green makes IndieWire Breakout List – Jan 2017

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 purchased by Netflix – Jan 2017

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 “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.

Casting JonBenet – Top 10 Most Anticipated – Dec 2016

The first of many “best of” lists for Casting JonBenet was in this article on 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,…”

Sundance Film Festival accepts Casting JonBenet – Nov 2016

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.

Shooting – Feb 2016

Things progressed quickly after the 2nd callbacks and most of the call days for filming were in February of 2016.

Third Audition – 2nd Callback – Jan 2016

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.

Second Audition-1st Callback- Jan 2016

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).

First Audition – July 2015

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….