"Ping Pong Summer" character: Rad Miracle (The Newbie) Hometown: Cape May Court House, N.J. Describe your character in the movie. My character in the movie is in that awkward stage of preteen where you're not sure you're cool, but are ready to try to be. How similar are you to the character? I think we had a lot of similarities because I was just at the same age as my character, Rad, physically and mentally, but now things like dating and bullying are done through texting and computers. It's a totally different world than back in the '80s. What made you decide to audition, how did the audition go, and did you think you'd get the part? I have an aunt who lives in Ocean City, and she took my sister and me to the open casting call. I really liked the director and his wife and they made me read some sides into a camera. I remember sweating and was really nervous and really didn't think anything of it. Then I got a call back and was so happy. What was your first day on set like? I really liked all the people we were working with and the rest of the cast. Michael Tully would sit and go over things with us every morning so there was never any nervousness when we filmed. It was a great experience. Best part of working on the movie? Worst part? The worst part was the fact that we had to keep up with our schoolwork while in between takes. I was in about every scene, so this was a lot of work to keep up with. Do you think you would have enjoyed living in the '80s? I totally would dig living in the '80s, except now I'd be as old as my mom, who grew up thinking she was Madonna! Are you thinking about pursuing an acting career? I am definitely pursing a career in acting. I can't believe that my first film I got to work with people like Susan Sarandon, Lea Thompson and John Hannah, to name a few. I have been doing some self-tape auditions [for] my agent in California and am hoping that this movie will open the door for more acting opportunities. Writer/director Michael Tully's take: As the whole mission of "Ping Pong Summer" was to insert my own embarrassingly personal, normal, functional, well-adjusted upbringing into an '80s movie, I didn't want Rad Miracle to be a flashy, showy, character. Marcello Conte's face is so expressive that he didn't have to do much to convey true awkward, honest, youthful emotion. He intuitively understood the character, and by the end of the movie, I didn't even have to give him any notes between takes really! It is a tricky challenge for the most experienced of actors to do more with less, but even though Marcello Conte had no previous "real" acting experience, I sensed from the first time he walked into the room of our Ocean City audition that we'd found our Rad.
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"Ping Pong Summer" character Teddy Fryy (The Buddy) Hometown: New Market, Md. Describe your character: Teddy Fryy is an awkward teen and a loyal friend. He is just trying to be a kid. He also will go out of his way to make a friend (Rad Miracle). How similar are you to your character? I am somewhat similar to Teddy. We both are outgoing and full of life. But I am definitely way smoother than him. Plus he isn't a ladies' man; he is scared of them. On the other hand, I am a charmer. What made you decide to audition, how did the audition go, and did you think you'd get the part? The audition happened completely out of the blue. On a nice spring day my mom forced me and my sister to get a book from the library. While my sister and I were looking for a book, a lady popped out of nowhere and asked if we wanted to audition for a movie. I was thrilled and just walked off with her; my sister on the other hand was hesitant. ... After we were done [the audition], I ran out of the library with a movie instead of a book and told my mom everything. My mom was concerned that it could be a scam. She gave me a lecture about stranger danger! What was your first day on set like? The first day on set was chill. They had me and Marcello Conte (Rad Miracle) eating ice cream sundaes from Dumser's on the boardwalk. The director (Michael Tully) wanted to slowly get us comfortable with the whole camera thing. There was really no pressure anytime during the shoot. Michael was wonderful to work with and really patient with my "new" acting skills. Best part of working on the movie? Worst part? Shooting the friend montage was by far the best thing. I got to ride a roller coaster, play in an arcade, go to a water park, and [ride in] bumper cars. The worst part was when I ate way too much junk food on and off set. I blew chunks at the end of the day; it was awful. Do you think you would have enjoyed living in the '80s? The '80s were totally radical! The clothing back then was super-fly. Also the music was on point. Are you thinking of pursuing an acting career? The film has sparked a real interest in acting for me. It was amazing to be transformed into another decade and into a child in the '80s. I plan to keep my options open and explore the possibility of acting in more film and commercials. Writer/director Michael Tully's take: Myles had perhaps the trickiest role to play, and not just because he too had never really acted before. It's that his character was most directly inspired by a "bad" '80s movie like "No Retreat, No Surrender." And yet, according to our guiding plan of attack, his performance had to be both flamboyant and cartoonish and simultaneously 100 percent sincere. Something about discovering him unintentionally at our audition at the Urbana Library in the spring of '12 made perfect sense. I simply had a strong hunch about Myles. Now, looking back on it, I can say that he put forth the time, energy, and work needed to bring Teddy Fryy to razzle-dazzling life!
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Michael Tully's "Ping Pong Summer," a love letter to the Ocean City where he spent his summers back in the '80s, may have a cast that includes such Hollywood stalwarts as Susan Sarandon, Lea Thompson, John Hannah and Amy Sedaris (the film, which screened at the Maryland Film Festival, returns to area theaters this weekend). But the real stars are a bunch of largely unknown local actors, none of whom were older than 20 when they made the film two summers ago. We asked the young stars their thoughts on making the film, on working with such experienced actors and on time-traveling back to the '80s. And then we asked Tully, who grew up in Mount Airy and very much lived the story he wrote for the screen, what he saw in each of them. -- Chris Kaltenbach