Two women bring a bit of Hollywood to Fernley
FERNLEY – Toni Suttie and Kris Hemenway serve Hollywood from bucolic Fernley.
When a movie crew rolls into Northern Nevada or the neighboring Sierra, Suttie and Hemenway supply the locals who play support roles as well as do much of the off-screen work.
Suttie is a licensed casting director who finds talent for directors for secondary and small speaking roles.
Hemenway Production Services recruits local businesses and individuals to provide an array of support ranging from hotel rooms, photo copies and lunch to vehicles and furniture.
Their names are linked to movies such as “So I Married an Axe Murderer,” and “Mad City” along with yet-to-be-released features “Diamonds,” “Snowstorm,” “Squelch” and “The Harvesters.”
Independently and before they ever met, both chose Fernley as the place to live and work. Fernley may be 400-some miles from Hollywood, but Hemenway and Suttie delve into the nitty-gritty of movie making and enjoy the pleasures of rural living.
“Most of Hollywood people do not live in Hollywood,” Suttie said. “It’s not where you are. It’s if you develop a reputation. If you please a client, they will call you and call you.”
Suttie and Hemenway live on the phone, and they have very different telephone styles.
Hemenway is known for her phone headset and raising one finger to announce that she’s on the phone to people approaching her. That single finger is in the air a lot when she’s on a project.
Hemenway: “Toni’s phone intensive in another way.”
Suttie: “I can get on the phone and off in 10 to 15 seconds. I don’t have time to chit-chat.”
Suttie, 35, typically must supply a director with five or 10 candidates for each role. She essentially screens the dozens, sometimes 100 or more, hopefuls so that the director only has to deal with finalists.
If she lands the casting assignment for the upcoming “Snowstorm” production, it could mean supplying as many as 480 names to fill 48 roles.
“It will probably take me a week or two to get that many people,” Suttie said.
She has about 30,000 names and 8-by-10-inch glossy photos on file at her offices in Fernley and Santa Clara, Calif., for non-speaking extras. Suttie, however, primarily casts speaking roles.
Suttie has about 100 Northern Nevada people on file. When a production company announces a shoot, many more give her a call. When the right role comes along, these locals could appear in movies, commercials, print advertising or industrial videos.
“I’d like to do more feature films,” Suttie said. “My bread and butter is corporate industrial videos. They pay me very well. I’m on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I don’t get burned out. I have natural energy. I go to bed happy.”
A Silicon Valley firm called Suttie pleading for one female and one male to play administrative assistants along with the company CEO. The firm needed to have a finished video ready by the next afternoon to show to visiting Europeans.
She instantly had some names in mind. The only question was whether they would be immediately available for the $1,000 assignment.
Suttie’s Integrity Casting office is at the central intersection in Fernley. Along with endless phone calls, Suttie also directs auditions in the small studio, which is bedecked with glossies of her acting roster.
It doesn’t take drop-dead gorgeous or handsome to attract Suttie’s attention.
“I don’t look for that,” Suttie said. “I look for real people. I look for people who are not only trained and have the tools but people who are easy to work with.”
Often Suttie is oblivious to the details of a movie production other than the script.
“I am total tunnel vision,” she said. “It’s all about the talent. What I need to care about is getting the right people, the right hair, the right foot. I do lots of hands.”
Hemenway, 46, has a more diverse resume that includes clown work, performance horse riding, wardrobing and lots of work as an extra during her Los Angeles years in the 1970s and early 1980s.
She produced “Jesus Christ Superstar” at the Pioneer Center in Reno just before the Broadway show started in 1995. She drove Bill Murray during “Larger Than Life” production and Alan Alda when he made “Mad City.”
Hemenway has even worked lighting and sound boards. Curiously, she got her start as an extra in her native Indiana when the production team for “A Girl Named Sooner” came to her state.
“I love to act,” Hemenway said. “Some day I’ll probably do more of that.”
Acting is the last thing on Hemenway’s mind when she’s on the job. For her, life with a movie crew involves FedExes, hotels, restaurants, furniture stores and utility companies.
She becomes the logistics officers for a film company’s location shooting.
“You’re kind of a mom,” Hemenway said. “You make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible. I’m responsible for finding people. I’m not a supervisor on the set. I just open the doors.”
For the movie “Diamonds” (starring Kirk Douglas, in theaters this month), Hemenway opened the production office before the Hollywood crew arrived in fall 1998. She set up accounts for phone service and utilities and arranged maps of Reno so cast and crew could find their way around town.
“I then became a paper shuffler,” Hemenway said. “I made sure all the offices in L.A. had the information. The art department asked if I could help them find a warehouse. For the production staff, I had to make sure they had rooms and I had to make sure scripts were copied and casts lists were available.”
“It’s non-stop,” she said. “Every day is a crisis about something. You have this Rolodex in your mind that clicks into gear.”
How to get involved in a movie shoot
As a performer: contact Toni Suttie at Integrity Casting, 25 E. Main St. Suite 5 in Fernley, (775) 575-0100.
She is looking for talent for a film called “Wolf Song.”
Behind the scenes: contact Kris Hemenway at Hemenway Production Services, (775) 575-6868