A conversation with an interesting Portlander
Danny Stoltz is 32 but looks too young to be running Portland's largest extras talent agency, Extras Only. But for those who thinks Stoltz is too young now, you have no idea.
Portland Tribune: How old were you when you started this company?
Danny Stoltz: I was 15. I knew from when I was a kid I wanted to be in the entertainment business, an actor, agent or producer. My junior year in high school, a cyst was discovered on my back, and after a year in rehab I was able to go on an outing.
You got to pick somewhere you wanted to go outside the hospital. There was a casting call looking for extras. In my wheelchair I got to be an extra in a movie that was shooting here - the NBC movie of the week. My mom brought me to the set. When all was said and done I got a paycheck for $30 for the day. I loved it.
I was so intrigued by being on a set and the experience I told my parents I was going to be a casting director and start a casting company and I was going to drop out of school.
Tribune: You can't do that at 15.
Stoltz: That's exactly what my dad said. I packed my bags and ran away from home. I would show up at movie sets that were shooting around Portland. I got a job or two and I just started skipping school, hanging out at movie sets and helping out wherever I could.
'Mr. Holland's Opus' (released in 1995) was shooting around that time. I knew the lady who did craft services and she hired me to be the water boy. There were thousands of extras, teenagers, so the first two days on the set my job was to bring water down to the extras at the high school. By day three or four I was asked what would I do if there were a thousand extras showing up tomorrow, how would I coordinate that.
I said give me 10 minutes and I'll come back with a plan. I sketched out on paper the gymnasium and parking lot where people would check in and do paperwork. I said I needed 10 walkie talkies and eight assistants and I had where each person would be positioned and what they would be doing. He gave me the job of extras casting coordinator right there on the spot.
The next day busloads of teenagers started showing up at 5 or 6 a.m. and I had all my tables lined up with all my people ready to go, hair and makeup. I was running the whole show on a major motion picture.
Tribune: You were 15 years old.
Stoltz: I started my own business Oct. 1, 1994, and I pitched an adult partner to help when I pitched a client. She had a small percentage and was basically my front person.
Tribune: Are you a high school graduate?
Stoltz: No. Three weeks after I started the company I got my first feature film and people didn't know how old I was. A lot of it was over the phone. I would do things like, if I knew a big producer was calling, I would make my phone ring in the background by having my friends continually call me for an hour.
Tribune: But when the producers came to Portland to shoot, they would see you were just a kid.
Stoltz: A lot of my clients didn't see me in person. I would come up with creative reasons why I could never go to the meetings. And then I'd revert to doing most things over the phone and talking maturely. Now I'm probably more casual and immature than when I started.
Tribune: Was it difficult in the early years?
Stoltz: I didn't have a massive database (of extras). I would pull all-nighters trying to recruit people off the street, driving around trying to find that one face or that one look alike.
I'd be out at 4 in the morning trying to find a lookalike for Angelina Jolie when I was 17 years old.
Tribune: What was that about?
Stoltz: She was in town shooting a feature film called 'Foxfire' (released in 1996) at Lincoln High School. I was supposed to go to the cast party with her and she was like 18. They were all going to meet at a nightclub for 18-year-olds and I couldn't go because I was 17 and I couldn't tell them.
Tribune: Ever find her lookalike?
Stoltz: Yes. Somewhere down around Pioneer Square at 4 in the morning.
Tribune: What has been the most unusual request from a client?
Stoltz: We got a call to do a music video for Everclear and they gave us about a day and a half notice before filming to find 700 blondes. They had to be 18 to 24 and they had to look attractive and hip. In Portland.
Tribune: What did you do?
Stoltz: I got a group of about 10 people together and we hit all the nightclubs all night and took photos of people and tried to sign them up on the spot. But we were still struggling to find enough blondes. So we took out the blonde requirement and started signing up anybody and everybody who wanted to be in a music video who had the right look despite the hair color.
We were 10 hours away from filming so I reached people I knew who owned hair salons and in the wee hours of the morning at three different locations we were sending hundreds of people to get their hair dyed.
We pulled it off - 700 blondes.