Thompson High School sophomore stars in multimedia fiction novel

One Thompson High School sophomore got a chance at stardom when he was selected to be one of the stars of an online and print video-book project by a production company in Walla Walla, Washington.

Urijah Sailes, 15, answered PC Studio’s online casting call for teenagers to star in an ambitious new fiction media convergence project which would consist of a print book that contains access codes to a website coinciding with the story, Patrick Carman’s Trackers.

“I was nervous at first even though I wasn’t in front of lots of people,” Sailes said. He and his sister Alexis filmed his audition video with a webcam and submitted it to the studio’s website.

Almost 600 prospective actors from all over the country auditioned online and at in-person casting calls in the Pacific Northwest. Four people were chosen to play the parts of the teenage trackers and were flown out to Walla Walla in July 2009 to begin filming.

Sailes was hoping for the role of levelheaded leader Adam, but Jeffery Townsend, PC Studio’s director of development, saw Sailes playing the charming and personable Finn.

“Finn is a character who is glib, personable and uniformly adored,” Townsend said. “He could get away with murder with that smile, and I had a sense that if Urijah ever did do anything to make someone mad, they wouldn’t be able to stay mad long.

After accepting his role as Finn, Sailes and his mother Theresa flew out to Walla Walla to move into the “cast house” and begin filming. Theresa Sailes went along as a chaperon to help transport the teens to the different filming locations, make sure they were in bed by a decent hour and generally make their temporary house feel like a home.

Theresa Sailes also said the chaperons and cast were definitely well-provided for.

“Whatever the kids wanted to do for fun, the crew made sure they got to do it,” she said. “Catering every meal, letting them get ice cream whenever they wanted, seeing the midnight showing of Harry Potter– they made us feel like we were in Hollywood.”

When filming actually began, Sailes and the rest of the cast spent many late nights and early mornings making sure they played their roles perfectly. Because Sailes’ character is an avid skateboarder, he had to learn a skill he’d never tried before.

“I’m not that good,” Sailes says. “But I can do it.”

Sailes effort is apparent in videos on the “Trackers” website. The videos are an important part of the readers’ experience with the “Trackers” book because they are actually mentioned in the book. After every two chapters, the readers are given a password and directed to the website where they can watch the video diary that provides integral parts of the plot.

“Everyone has experimented with putting extra material online,” Townsend said. “But Patrick’s idea was to make it fully integrated.”

For readers with limited internet access, there are also printed transcripts of the videos within the book.

Sailes and his family haven’t read the book yet because they only recently purchased a copy.

“Two Saturdays ago we walked into Barnes & Noble and saw it on the shelf,” said Sailes’ father, Larry. “That’s what made it real for us.”

Trackers 1 is available for sale wherever books are sold, and the sequel, Trackers 2, will be available in bookstores this October.