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How This Teenager Landed an Oscar-Nominated Actor to Star in His Film

How This Teenager Landed an Oscar-Nominated Actor to Star in His Film

Just a couple of months back, Indiewire published a story by teenage filmmaker Luke Jaden, “What It’s Like to Be a Teenage Filmmaker.” Jaden, then 18, had recently wrapped his fourth film, “King Ripple.” “Trying to be a teenage filmmaker or a young Orson Welles is kinda ridiculous. You have to follow your own path — and some days it feels as if I just got dropped off on the side of the road going cross country along Route 66 and somehow got swept into this business,” he wrote.

READ MORE: What It’s Like to Be a Teenage Filmmaker

For his next film, Jaden has pulled off something few 19-year-olds (even Orson Welles) can boast: he managed to land an Oscar-nominated actor as the star. Barkhad Abdi, the Oscar-nominated “Captain Phillips” star and Torrey Wigfield (“Lost River”) have signed on to “The Wolf Who Cried Boy,” which is set to start shooting in Detroit later this spring. The story centers on a young man (Wigfield) who gets swept into the seedy underbelly of the scrapping industry. Abdi will play a limo driver who acts as a fence for stolen copper.

Jaden co-wrote the script with Cort Johns. The two will also co-direct and produce, along with Frank Capra III, Phil Wurtzel, Anthony Garth, Michael Zervos and Andy Henry.

When Indiewire reached out to Jaden about his secret to landing top notch talent, he credited the casting director Andy Henry. “He has consistently opened the heavily-bolted door to the vault of talent,” said Jaden.

Here are some other tips Jaden shared (in his own words):

Build a team.

No one can make a film alone, I certainly can’t — although, as the main promoter of a film, often I have felt very alone. But I also know that once the train starts moving forward, people will want to hop right on board and help you throughout the long journey. 

I have been fortunate to cultivate relationships with capable and well-respected professionals who share my excitement for making narrative films. Sometimes they live nearby and sometimes they don’t. Either way, it’s a game of phones 95% of the time.

Don’t give up.

It takes guts to crank out a bunch of calls, just ask any of your friends that have worked in an outbound call center. I always communicate with enthusiasm and excitement. I work the phones like I am working in a boiler room. That means Facebook and Twitter too. I don’t sit on my butt waiting around for people to call me. 

Even my best allies in the industry need to see evidence that I have enough drive and chutzpah to stoke the flames of the project so that the fire burns bright enough to get us across the finish line. I have endless ecstatic energy toward film, most people seem to like that about me…  

Be patient.

It became clear to me that Barkhad Abdi was the only one that could play the role to its true potential. The right person is worth the wait. He fit the role, plus he had unique knowledge of our world. As the project evolved, taking the long-shot approach to Barkhad began to make more sense. 

It was a huge blessing that Barkhad had accolades, but he also was the best actor out of thousands who were auditioned for the lead pirate role in “Captain Phillips.” Just watch the clip where Barkhad’s character tells Tom Hanks’ character that “I’m the Captain now.” To deliver that line–to arguably one of the best actors in history, is a remarkable accomplishment.

It all comes down to story.

In order to get an opportunity with talent, the written material must be composed at a high level. This is a critical component of being able to get on the phone with an agent and get them excited about the the project. The confidence stems from knowing that when you hit send on the follow-up email, that the script is good and the story is great. If the excitement on the phone matches up with the excitement while reading; they will call back.

READ MORE: Here’s Why You Need to Hire a Casting Director

This Article is related to: Filmmaker Toolkit and tagged ,



It’s all a bunch of bull. Maybe this kid will break out, but there is nothing to suggest he has talent or even promise just yet.

Whatever he’s gotten done so far, he’s gotten through the fact that he’s the child of millionaires.

Nothing wrong with that, but we should take any advice from a silver-spoon fed child with a grain of salt until he actually creates something noteworthy.

Michael Sanders

I have no interest in what a kid has to say about making a short film. This is such a random article. How much did he or his dad or whoever pay to get this article published? There are a hundred film students doing the SAME EXACT THING!


Hey ya’ll I understand what you saying but released or not released, IMDB or no IMDB he still accomplishing things. Give that and him some credit. We all have to promote one another even if its something as minute as completing one page of your screenplay. There’s enough critics out there. Don’t be afraid to go the other way!!! All the best to you and SHALOM!!!!

Lee Alexander

I am appalled at the comments I’m reading here. He’s done something that few people can do at his age and you lot, ridicule him for it. A lot of jealous people on here because you haven’t been recognized on this website….

Signe Olynyk

Give me a break?! The kid made a film, and got Oscar caliber talent! Since when did we become a culture of shunning accomplishments. We should be celebrating every filmmaking success we can. It’s practically a miracle every time and fantastic to see such a young filmmaker achieving like this. Way to go, Jaden!

Chris Saunders

Well there are some well grounded thoughtful comments here that are quite accurate. The emphasis here with teen film maker is always business and as with contemporary music moguls, their aim seems to be empire building. Nothing wrong with this but nothing interesting either. Their stance seems to have more in common with tv than with original movies. I guess the missing element is "heart".


Okay, just pull it back a moment. He’s made 3 shorts, a 40-min doco, and is finishing up on his first feature. It’s not really his fourth film then. Although as an 18-year old myself, I’m certainly envious of the lad. I hope the future holds well for him.

Sean Whitehead

Bill, take a hike. Keep doing you kid. Jaden’s got talent!!!!!! #CARLO


It’s not hard to get an actor…that-in and of itself isn’t anything impressive. Everyone knows if you give Sean Bean $1 Mil- he’ll be in your movie. It’s not an impressive feat. Ewe Boll has made 33 movies- is that worthy of praise? No. Neither is this.


yet another overpriviliged, untalented teen with rich parents or connections to help make his crappy, shallow movie and then has the audacity to compare himself with Orson Wells or even put himself in the same sentence while he’s made nothing of worth. of course he’s gonna boast about getting Barkhad on the film, the way this industry work, Barkhad must have not been getting any roles as is the reality with this industry that does not give non-whites any chance, regardless if he’s nominated. This kid is now boasting about how he’s got Barkhad on the film and how he’s right for the role, when he’s just gonna use that oscar-nominated tag as a way to promote or boost profile of his own film. he would never have gone for Barkhad had he not been nominated for oscar. like the other commentators said, unless if he’s a prodigy of some kind or has even remotely noteworthy body of work or even a film, he’s just another talentless kid with rich parents and connections who are shoving him down our throats while there are countless more talented teen filmmakers who don’t even get a chance. I’d rather be more excited about what Xavier Dolan is upto next than this wannabe.

Dave Barak

Oops, "them," not "then."

Dave Barak

@Jeff – You’re right, they do sound bitter. It would be interesting to see how many IMDB credits they have between then (not that that’s a good measure of talent). The gist of the story is that this "kid" managed to attract some top talent. Whether he’s a success or not in someone’s opinion isn’t the point of the story. That being said, I’ve found that those that whine the loudest are often the ones that have found themselves stuck in a rut, often of their own causing. I’m not where I want to be in my career, and yes, I feel frustrated, but I’m not going to begrudge someone else’s success out of jealousy.


You all sound bitter

sunny moodie

Go Jaden! what a hero!


and someday this kid might release a movie. Nothing on his IMDb has been released other than a documentary. Is he even any good?


"OKIE DOWN", the feature film was made by one dude, Google it.

Have to agree with you 'P'. It's the teen miillionaire generation. They get an idea on the net and make a million, then do speeches on how to make a million. Like you said, when this kid makes a 'citizen kane', then it's worth talking about him



To hear a 19 year old say "don’t give up" and "be patient". Gimme a break indieWIRE ! Manoel de Oliveira went to Cannes as he was turning 100. Write about that. Until he gives us Citizen Kane he ain’t no Orson Welles. I’m a girl, does that make me the next Agnès Varda ? Didn’t think so.

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