Major holiday releases are typical at movie theaters this time of year, but this year will be special for Branford residents, as they will be able to see one of their own on the big screen.
Skylar Dunn, a Branford 10 year old at Walsh Intermediate School, already with an impressive list of acting credits, landed a key role in the “The Greatest Showman,” the biopic of P.T. Barnum that just this week saw a series of Golden Globe nominations, including for Best Motion Picture and for its star, Hugh Jackman.
Dunn plays a young Charity Barnum, who is later portrayed in the movie by Michelle Williams.
For a ten year old, Skylar has already had an accomplished career. First working as a young model, her mother became aware of an opening for a Doritos commercial when she was 5. That led to a series of commercials, including for Coke Zero, Samsung and Yale New Haven Health. She landed the lead in an independent film, Bedtime Story, and along with that came the hiring of agents and acting coaches.
One of those coaches is Lori Lowe, of the Guilford based The Mindful Actor.
“One of the things that are unique about Skylar is she has all of the things within her that point to a very successful career," explains Lowe. "She loves it, she has a pure passion for her creativity, and she is a crack study; she can learn lines like that…she’s a natural storyteller, she has something to say, she is pure creativity, pure passion, and then you throw in a lot of natural talent. I don’t see that a lot.”
At that point interviewing Dunn and Lowe together, Dunn gave her coach the ultimate compliment, turning to tell her “You have taught me how to do all that.”
Landing parts is no easy process. First her agency will send her prospective roles, some of which may be vetoed by Dunn’s mother if the role seems too old or dark. If the part is of interest, Dunn is sent “sides,” or portions of the script along with character descriptions.
Something that is becoming more common in the digital age is sending in video auditions for the part. To prepare, she and her coach break down the scene. “We will study each line, break it down, what we think about for each line.”
At times, the time frame could be just 1 to 3 days from the time an actor receives the script until the audition is due. If the casting director likes what they see, Dunn is called in for an audition in person.
Hundreds auditioned for the role in The Greatest Showman, where Dunn was aided, not only by her skill, but her looks, something that is key when she is playing a younger version of a particular character.
“Especially when you are playing a star from the beginning, you have to look a certain way to get any part,” explained Lowe. In the film, Dunn plays the younger version of a character portrayed by Michelle Williams.
Over time and multiple auditions, some on video, some in person, and some to measure chemistry with other actors, Dunn was selected for the part.
“You have to match the person…and you have to have chemistry with the other readers and director as well,” said Dunn.
On top of a budding film career, Dunn is a student in 5th grade, plays lacrosse, is learning guitar and will be playing field hockey in the future.
While her agents are busy looking for the next project, Dunn continues with classes with Lowe, who works with prospective actors of all ages.
As for the movie? “It is amazing, very entertaining. You just want to get up and sing and dance,” said Dunn.