Special to The Oakland Press
Sitting in a makeup chair, a young girl looks up yawning, before laughing and then immediately apologizing.
“I’m sorry, I’m just so tired, we were filming pretty late yesterday,” she says. “Call time yesterday originally was 5 o’clock, and for some reason the camera broke, and I was like ‘I’m sleeping.’”
The girl is 14-year-old Alora Catherine Smith, a Bloomfield Hills resident.
Alora is preparing to attend Andover High School in the fall, having already worked with an Oscar-nominated director.
Rob Reiner (“A Few Good Men”) auditioned Alora last autumn after surveying a plethora of potentials for the role of Melanie Humes for his upcoming feature film “Flipped.”
The film is a drama based on the book of the same title from author Wendelin Van Draanen.
Although Alora didn’t only read for that specific part, she says she was excited when her agent arranged the auditions and that she was, “ecstatic when I got to go in and meet Rob Reiner during the callbacks at their offices in Ann Arbor.”
When she heard the news that she had landed the role, it became an echo all around her.
She goes on to explain that the news that she got the part was soon shuffling through the locker rooms and hallways at her junior high school as she informed all her friends who wanted to know all the details about the film.
“Everyone asked me a lot of questions, but I didn’t know anything yet,” she recalls.
Alora was not familiar at first with the classic résumé of her new boss, which includes such films as 1989’s “When Harry Met Sally,” though she was well aware of the reputation of the writer, director and producer.
Alora admits, “I saw Rob Reiner actually for the first time as an actor on Disney’s ‘Hannah Montana,’ which is how I knew about him.”
Sitting in the green room in a Grand Blanc mansion awaiting the assistant director to call her to the set of a promotional piece for an upcoming horror film, she fidgets with the rubber animal wristbands that are covering her right arm and pulls one off to display.
The bracelets that have been a cause of much trouble in grade schools across the country are one of her favorite wardrobe pieces that she gets to keep after filming is complete.
Though not allowed to say much about this other project because of confidentiality agreements, Alora assures that the project is fun and scary, with a plotline that revolves around a babysitter who is hired to take care of a young boy inside what is revealed to be a haunted house of sorts.
Who or what is doing the haunting?
She pauses for a moment to take into consideration how much she can reveal as she lifts her head to look at her mother, Julie Smith, for confirmation.
Alora says that her mother is her talent manager and therefore needs to talk with her before conceding story details.
From Motown to Hollywood
As the manager, Julie organizes Alora’s trips to Los Angeles.
Alora and her mother are back and forth like a game of tennis with the details of her first trip to Hollywood.
Julie and her husband Clay Smith are also artists and both are graduates of Detroit’s College for Creative Studies. Julie works as a freelance graphic designer alongside her husband who teaches industrial design at their alma mater. Alora’s father also contracts out as a production designer for film.
Alora says she feels proud of her parents’ efforts and is thankful for everything they have done to assist in her in following her passion.
Julie laughs out when asked about her reaction to Alora’s initial interest in acting at the age of 10.
“I thought, maybe it will pass, maybe she’ll stop asking one of these days,” she says.
Like most parents would be, Julie was protective and remained well informed about the chances her daughter had, as young actors are up against time and money.
Julie began briefing on how she financed and enrolled Alora for a series of on-camera summer programs in Los Angeles two years in a row.
Reminiscing of her workshops in Los Angeles at Young Actors Camp, Alora says, “The second year I went there, I met Selena Gomez ... she’s so nice. I had a tea party with Selena and we did acting games and people asked her questions.”
Alora even had an opportunity to tour the set of TV’s “Wizards of Waverly Place” with the stars of the show.
Words of wisdom
Julie also warns parents of scammers who arrange acting and modeling conventions with promises that are a bit fraudulent.
Thanks to a previous event that left Julie with mixed feelings and empty pockets, she warns parents, “Here I thought we passed these auditions, however, I didn’t like some of their practices.”
She tells of a contract that was thrown in front of her to sign immediately before they could even talk to the agents or managers that were advertised to be at the event.
“You have to commit like 10 or 15 percent of any income you make for the next three years to them.”
Alora pushes in her own thought with her hands in the air questioning, “When they’re not doing anything?”
Julie also advises the future parents of young thespians, “Absolutely read what you’re signing ... It was quite a learning process.”
With a few years of acting under her belt, Alora poises with confidence before giving her honest advice to other would-be thespians: “Well, definitely if you don’t get a part it’s not always your fault. They’re looking for something specific. Even the greatest actors don’t make it because of what they look like, if you make a mistake (in an audition), don’t beat yourself up about it because something else is going to happen, and it was meant to be.”
Sporting a high level of charm and professionalism, Alora carries herself up from the chair when the assistant director finally pushes in and request that she be on set in five minutes.
Warner Brothers’ “Flipped” opens in theaters Aug. 6 in limited release and nationwide on Aug. 27.