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From high school to the red carpet with CineVegas Clubhouse

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Jeff Leibow and Erich Bergen of Jersey Boys stressed preparation and confidence during an acting workshop on March 10 that was part of the CineVegas Clubhouse program.
Photo: Aaron Thompson

Richard Pobre isn’t shy about why he’d like to be an actor. “I’d like to be watched by all the girls,” he says smiling, “be like a teen heartthrob.”

Pobre, 18, is one of seven local high school students and Boys & Girls Club members participating in the CineVegas Clubhouse, a five-week program that taps local professionals to teach the students about filmmaking and help them conceptualize, script, act in and shoot their own short film. The film, titled Where Da Girls At?, will have a red carpet premiere in June at the 2009 CineVegas Film Festival.

Jersey Boys Acting Class

So far, Pobre’s plans are progressing nicely.

“I’m the player chick magnet (in the film),” he says. “So, that’s pretty cool.”

The film, which will be shot over the course of two days at the end of March, takes place at an all boys’ school where a group of friends are trying to find some girls. Somewhere along the way a necessary transformation occurs: They turn into zombies.

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“It’s a sci-fi, drama, comedy,” explains Pobre. “It’s been a great experience.”

A lot of hands are working on the movie – the students themselves, who play the characters in the film and will assist with the filming, and adults who’ve volunteered their time to guide the project along. UNLV professor Francisco Menendez stopped by to discuss the history of film. James “JR” Reid, president of JR Lighting and Grip, taught the kids about lighting techniques. Songwriter Sharon Paquette is donating a song to the project and local filmmaker Jonpaul Lewis is sitting in the director’s chair.

On Tuesday, March 10, Pobre and his fellow actors turned their efforts towards improving their on-screen performance at a workshop with Jersey Boys cast members Erich Bergen and Jeff Leibow.

After watching the Clubhouse participants walk through a scene from the film, the professionals offered some acting advice.

Erich Bergen, who plays Bob Gaudio in Jersey Boys at the Palazzo, laughs as he offers acting advice to the Boys & Girls Club members acting in Where Da Girls At?, a short film being produced as part of CineVegas Clubhouse.

“The best thing you can do when you’re creating a character is try and find the similarities between you and that character,” advised Leibow, who plays Nick Massi in the play at the Palazzo.

“As an actor, you’re already enough,” added Bergen, Jersey Boys’ Bob Gaudio. “You’ve been given these roles for a reason.”

Bergen, who started acting at a very young age in off-Broadway shows, has some experience pairing kids with theater professionals. It hasn’t been so long since he was the one receiving the coaching while performing in a youth theater company alongside working actors.

“It was the better training than I got in any college or university,” Bergen remembered. “You were thrust into an off-Broadway musical that was open to the public, not just your parents.”

While the CineVegas Clubhouse participants won’t be doing the song and dance numbers that Bergen had to learn for his debut in Bye Bye Birdie, they’ve also have been cast into a film that will make it in front of public eyes, including a few that know a thing or two about filmmaking. CineVegas festival chairman Dennis Hopper will be attending Where Da Girls At?’s June premiere.

If the Clubhouse students follow Leibow and Bergen’s advice, they might learn a bit from Hopper, too.

“The director of Jersey Boys said, ‘Steal from the best,’” recalled Bergen, smiling. “‘The great actors steal. Watch as many movies as you can.’”

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Sarah Feldberg is the editor of Las Vegas Weekly magazine. A veteran journalist, Feldberg previously worked as the Weekly's web ...

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