By Shirley Hawkins
LONG BEACH — Many people dream of viewing themselves on the silver screen or on television, and one company that is assisting aspiring thespians to realize those dreams is the casting agency Hoopshots TV.
Since its founding in 2004, Hoopshots TV connects wanna-be performers with acting opportunities by holding a casting call every Tuesday to fill upcoming movie and TV projects.
“We audition experienced actors and models as well as those with little to no experience to see if they might be the right fit for a project,” said Victor Battle, the founder, actor, basketball enthusiast and producer at Hoopshots TV.
He said aspiring and experienced actors hear about Hoopshots TV through word of mouth or referrals.
“We supply the script,” he said. “We send it ahead to the actor before the audition. We keep a database of a thousand names of potential actors and we have booked many people as extras without them even having an agent.
“Our extras work in crowd scenes or are featured just walking down the street,” Battle added. “It’s free to submit your name and be an extra. But if someone wants to audition for a speaking part in a movie, I charge a retainer fee if I feel the person needs coaching.”
Battle, a former body double for basketball icon Michael Jordan, said that he was concerned about the thousands of young people who flood the entertainment industry each year seeking their big break but who may unwittingly fall under the control of potential predators.
“I wanted to help young people in this industry without having them compromise their integrity,” he said. “Acting is the most coveted position in the entertainment industry and with so many hopefuls, they could be taken advantage of by unscrupulous managers or agents who are working in the business.”
Battle also is deeply involved with a number of basketball-related activities.
“I know a lot of guys who play basketball and I invited them to join the auditions,” he said. “I found that the clients wanted the people I was bringing in. Our specialty is elite basketball players and beautiful models.”
Battle said that despite the ongoing strike by the Writers Guild of America, Hoopshots TV is continuing to hire independent contractors such as talent coordinators, directors of photography and production assistants to continue making movies and commercials.
As for producing movies, Battle said Hoopshots TV is going full steam ahead.
“We have several movies on Apple TV, Tubi and Amazon Prime that are airing right now,” he said.
“We hired extras for the movie ‘Hustle’ starring Adam Sandler and Queen Latifah that is currently showing on Netflix. Another movie I produced is ‘Shine Kings,’ a film featuring lowrider cars that is currently being shown on Hulu.”
Battle plays a bad guy in that movie.
“He attempts to pay his way to win the races as well as win the trophy contest,” he said.
Battle said he also plays the lead part in the comedy “Cheddy Ace,” where a beleaguered uncle has 24 hours to repay a loan to a few gangsters or pay the ultimate price. His nephews fall for his sob story and go on a scavenger hunt to help him come up with the money.
“Currently, we are working on ‘We Outside,’ a romantic comedy about three guys who are planning a night out and how their girlfriends attempt to sabotage their plans,” he said. “It will be released in July on Tubi and Apple TV.
“We are also working on ‘Candy Rain’ about female assassins that is in pre-production right now.”
Babacar Thiombane, 26, who has been acting for a year, was cast in the remake of “White Men Can’t Jump,” featuring actor Sinqua and rapper Jack Harlow that is currently airing on Hulu.
“I auditioned for the movie and from there I got a position as an extra,” Thiombane said. “When the day came to shoot, I was hired as a featured extra. That means that you are in the main shot.
“The ball gets stolen from me on the basketball court by Jack Harlow and he throws the basketball to his teammate who then scores a point. The filming lasted 12 hours. It was a very cool experience and it was my first movie,” Thiombane added.
Michael Purdy, 33, a part-time actor and a Harlem Globetrotter, said he was surprised when he went to his first audition and immediately got cast in a lottery commercial.
“Victor coached me,” said Purdy, who added that he now is involved in about five to 10 projects with HoopshotsTV. “My experience has been great and Hoopshots TV has opened up a lot of doors for me,” he said.
Shirley Hawkins is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers. She can be reached at email@example.com.