News Column

Akron area people show up for 'ZombieMom' movie tryouts in Barberton

June 16, 2013


June 16--BARBERTON -- The casting call for the movie ZombieMom brought out some of the local talent in the Akron-Cleveland area.

About 80 people signed up for tryouts Saturday, held at the Fast Lane Bowling Alley in the Magic City Plaza on Wooster Road North. They were of all ages, 8 to 50-something. They came from Columbus, Youngstown, Westlake, Elyria, Mentor, Akron and Cleveland.

The independent feature film is an action-packed story about one family's comedic struggle to live a normal life after some of them are infected with a virus that turns them into zombies.

"Here's the script. It's not so much what you say, but how you say it. You don't even have to read every word in the script, you can ad lib. We are looking for attitude," said the director of the film, Crissy Kolarik, 42, of Copley Township.

Kolarik recently won third place in the Horror Hotel International Film Festival held in Hudson with a movie called the Almost True Story of a Suburban Housewife.

Five people made up the casting team, all Akron-Cleveland area screenwriters, production managers, actors and actresses. They have all worked together for the past two years in various capacities. They all have full-time jobs and families. This is what they do for fun.

The casting crew was as excited as the tryouts, full of enthusiasm.

The creator of the film, Shawn Michelle, 51, of Lakewood, taped each tryout, but first she set up the scene and defined the character they were trying out for.

"You're the girl next door to the main characters. You are trying to be cool, but you really are afraid, you just don't want to show it," she said. "You don't want to be left alone."

Skylie Mazey, 14, of Akron, gave it a shot.

"Your expressions were great. You had a lot of attitude. That's exactly what we were looking for," were some of the comments made by the audition-screening team.

Mazey said she has been acting since kindergarten or first grade, taking acting lessons at Weathervane Community Playhouse. It was her acting skills that got her accepted into the George C. Miller Performing Arts School in Akron. The sixth grader hopes to continue her acting in plays at Firestone High School.

Evie Neal, 43, of Euclid; Tony Mittelo, 48, of Strongsville; and Gary Moon, 56, of Akron, all tried out for the gypsy role in the film.

All used a different accent, and all were believable.

"This is a character-driven story," Kolarik said. "Some of the roles could be played by a man or woman, there is no specific ethnicity or age limit. It just depends on who really nails the part."

The team also suggested Moon and Mittelo try out for the role of a professor in the play.

The English and Irish accents were dropped for this role. When told there may be some action stunts, Mittelo said: "That's fine. I don't mind. It's all for the art. You sacrifice for the craft." He said he was in the Avengers movie, shot in Cleveland. He was an extra running in and out of buildings and in the street wearing a tuxedo.

Real-life professor Kerrie Carfagno, 41, of University Heights, who teaches at John Carroll University, also tried out for the professor's role. She brought her two children, Sadie, 12, and Molly, 8, for tryouts but ended up accepting the team's request for her to try out as well.

She said her daughter, Sadie, is interested in filmmaking. She signed her up for a film class camp in Cleveland but not enough people signed up for it.

"There's not a lot of interest in her age group for filmmaking. I saw this online and told her I don't know what we are getting into," Carfagno said. "I don't know this world, but it's one way to get her on the set."

She said even if none of her family gets a part, maybe they can be extras in the film and learn something behind the scenes. The film may need up to 200 extras to play zombies.

The casting crew said it's a fun story line.

"It's spooky, it gets your attention. It's magical and whimsical," said Pauline Nowakowski, 53, of Cleveland.

Michelle said the film is "family friendly, a PG-13 movie and something adults can go to see with their children.

''We're not raising people from the dead or slashing bodies,'' Michelle said. ''We tried to make the movie smart, creating this virus and humanizing the zombies so that people really care about them, what would you do if it was your mother or grandmother. We follow the virus. In respect to the whole zombie genre we aren't going for the gore, just the goose bumps. It's still scary."

There were more than 100 online auditions and more auditions are being held today from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Brecksville branch of the Cuyahoga County Library, 9089 Brecksville Road.

"It took a couple of years to write the film," said creator Michelle. "The story created itself. I couldn't control what I wrote. It just came to me. The characters are inspired by real people. I just took them over the top."

The other casting crew members were Kris Leiter, 48, of Mansfield; and Aaron Cabrera, 21, of Akron.

Callbacks will be made after June 22, readings will be held in July and filmmaking will begin in August or September.

In four weeks, Michelle is going to Hollywood to pitch the story. She hopes to have the trailer and edited script completed by then.

To learn more go to Those who cannot make the in-person audition can email a photo, resume and any links to previous work to

Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or


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