Casting call part of Southington shop’s busy recovery

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SOUTHINGTON — Aspiring actors have a chance at getting on the big screen in the film adaptation of a coming-of-age novel which has an open casting call on Sunday at M&J Video Games & Collectibles.

Producer Jason Bush, a West Hartford resident, said they’re looking to cast around a half dozen people for his adaptation of “Rockit Crew,” a story written by Shane Robitaille telling of four friends who bonded over their love of hip hop in the summer of 1984. Casting for two of the four youth could be decided based on Sunday’s auditions.

The tale of four friends growing up in western Massachusetts in the 1980s and labeled misfits for their devotion to hip hop is nostalgic for many of the same customers that frequent the collectibles shop. When Bush visits M&J, he said it’s an overwhelming reminder of his childhood, making it a perfect backdrop for the auditions.

“The story seems to resonate, because adults say they remember that time and kids say they love hip hop,” he said.

The casting call, which already has around 30 to 40 people signed up, is for the film’s trailer to promote the production to studios and funders, with the potential for roles to be carried over to the full movie. Filming is expected to begin in the summer of 2022 and will take place in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

The story follows Robitaille’s own upbringing as a childhood hip hop fan and starts at the beginning of the genre’s popularity, Bush said. He came to know Robitaille while they were both working at the same company years ago and have been talking about adapting “Rockit Crew” to film for half a decade.

“It needs to be seen. It’s a classic coming-of-age story, but a unique story,” Bush said.

His own experience with movie production begins in the early 2000s when he was thrust into the industry with a lucky break working on major sets like “Law and Order” and Robert De Niro’s “The Good Shepherd.” The first film he directed, “Lucid,” was released in 2013 and is a psychological thriller in which a teenager loses touch with reality after the death of his father causes him to begin having lucid dreams.

Busy recovery

The casting call is one of many interactive events M&J is hosting in August, which owner John Kelleher said is part of a summer season which is shaping up to be a surprisingly busy recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. On Aug. 6, he'll be hosting wrestlers Pitbull Gary Wolfe and Justin Credible, a Middletown native and on Aug. 8 WWE wrestlers Angel Orsini and Jazz will be visiting for a meet and greet.

“The beginning of August is going to be very busy for us,” he said.

The return of live autograph signings and meet and greets brings back a vital lifeline for performers who have been sidelined by the pandemic. To help provide them with some revenue, Kelleher organized virtual events where athletes would answer questions from fans live and auction off memorabilia. Though all revenues went to the performers, he said it brought a lot of attention to his store which has continued.

Prior to the pandemic, sales had been declining to the point that Kelleher was worried for the future of his business, however many consumers rediscovered their childhood hobbies collecting figurines and cards while quarantining. Hobby boxes that sold for a couple hundred dollars just a few years ago now go for over $1,000 and some games have been difficult to keep in stock.

“Pretty much anything collectible went through the roof,” he said.

dleithyessian@record-journal.com203-317-2317Twitter: @leith_yessian

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