Many are called, but only about 700 to 900 are chosen.
“How many of you believe in divine appointment?” Carey Arban, chief executive of Actors, Models and Talent for Christ, asks a hopeful crowd at the Wyndham Richmond Airport hotel March 19.
On the airwaves last week, radio ads proclaimed local auditions for Actors, Models and Talent for Christ, known as AMTC, a Georgia-based scouting company that endeavors to bring a Christian influence to the entertainment industry. The casting call implores talented Richmonders to “be a light for God.”
The organization cites among its discoveries actress Megan Fox and Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Sonia Dara. (For the record, Arban claims the pre-“Transformers 2,” denim-shorts-in-the-body-shop-scene version of Fox, but would love to have her rejoin the flock.)
A diverse group of about 150 people — more than 80 contestants from the very young to the middle-aged, plus families and supporters — pack the hotel conference room where Arban holds forth, staking Richmond as “territory for God.”
The talent attending tonight's audition is a product of divine will, Arban says, but the company offers what she calls “the cool factor” — the slick packaging needed by the aspiring singers, dancers, models and actors assembled for success in the industry.
Arban, 54, a “late-in-life Christian” who joined the faith three years ago, clicks through PowerPoint slides to showcase the agency's success stories, including “American Idol” crooner Tim Urban. “It is time for quiet Christians to speak up, stand up, and to reclaim the entertainment industry for God,” Arban says.
Those who are called back will be one of 700 to 900 contestants who attend the twice-yearly AMTC conference in Orlando that promises the opportunity to meet “50 to 100” talent agents and other entertainment pros.
The price tag for the conference: $3,595. At least one family leaves the room after Arban announces the fee. Arban encourages families to seek sponsorship from a local church or apply for a scholarship, although such scholarships don't cover travel, lodging or other expenses.
“Parents, you will be tested,” Arban tells the crowd.
William McCray, a father of six from South Hill, sprinkles rejoinders of “amen” throughout Arban's presentation. The 45-year-old is here with his daughter, Jasmine McCray, 17, a soft-spoken high-school senior with a booming singing voice.
Auditioner No. 382 takes the stage. Christopher Adams, a 23-year-old philosophy major at Virginia Commonwealth University, is dressed in a stylish cargo jacket, distressed denim, white leather shoes and a silver pendant necklace. He sings “Love Goes On,” a tune by Christian pop vocalist David Phelps, in a smooth tenor.
He also has the religious credentials the organization purports to foster. Adams attends West End Assembly of God in Henrico County and talks about getting a master's degree in theology some day. But he withholds judgment on the talent agency.
“I have reservations about to what extent they're in the world. Because we are called to be in the world, but not of it,” he says. “I really don't want to do anything secular.” For example, Adams says that he'll act only in Christian movies, won't take his shirt off for a job and won't kiss a woman unless she's his wife.
The auditions wind down a little before 10 p.m. Several people linger — some of them, including Adams, have been asked by the organization's representatives to stay behind. They are definite callbacks, Arban says.
As for the others? “All of the auditions are prayerfully considered,” she says.