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The five stages of Star Trek casting in Dubai.

On Tuesday afternoon, Miranda Davidson Studios kicked off the first of three days of casting for "the largest feature film to be shot in Dubai in over 5 years."

Though no one could confirm it, there was really only one film it could be: Star Trek Beyond. The movie is set to film here in October, which means this is prime time to seek out some extras.

Earlier in the year, we learned that "Washington" was the code name for the production, as seen on some signs in Vancouver, where the movie had also filmed. Sure enough, signs around Dubai Studio City, Soundstage B, declared a "Washington casting" was taking place, all but confirming our suspicions. A strict no-photo, no-video policy was in place, and enforced.

Entry into the venue began at 2pm (not a minute earlier), and was scheduled to run until 8pm. A couple of hours in, there already seemed to be about a hundred people in the queue and waiting areas, from children to teenagers to adults of all ages.

The auditions continue at the same timings and location over the next two days. Anyone between the ages of six and 70, of all nationalities, ethnicities and genders, is welcome to try their luck.

So we thought we would, too.

Full disclosure: before Tuesday, I'd never been to a casting call in my life.

Like everyone else, I'd acted out Oscar-worthy dramatics in my shower, staged epic voice-over battles between my shampoo and conditioner, and practiced my crying face in the mirror to prove that in another life, I'd be a natural Julia Roberts.

But there was a screeching, unrealistic voice in my head as soon as I heard about the open casting. I, a mere mortal with no experience acting, could be Idris Elba's next onscreen love interest.

Of course, that was not what was going to happen in any galaxy, but I still went for it. Over the course of two hours on Tuesday afternoon, I found out what it means to try out to be an extra.

Step one: Endless queuing

It all begins as I get out of my taxi into 45-degree weather. I walk through a bunch of barricades, squinting my way through the scorching sun, and follow bright yellow arrows that say aACAyEXTRAS' until I find myself, finally, in an air-conditioned room. Panting, I begin the process of recovering from the heat.

Step two: Queasy anticipation

I'm at the front of the line, and my stomach is in absolute shambles. I suddenly remember that I've never seen a single Star Trek episode or film. What if they ask me to recite the previous two movies word-for-word? What if I have to pretend I find Chris Pine attractive? What if I have to speak at length about why I suddenly wanted to become an actress?

As you know by now, I've never acted before, and I was certain that someone was going to call me out on it and make me do a walk-of-shame back through the queue.

Nothing of the sort happened. Anticlimactically, they just asked for a valid Emirates ID or passport, then made me fill in some general information on a tablet before they ushered me into a waiting room. Here, I would continue to do my favourite thing in the world: Wait.

Step three: aACAyI'm gonna be a star'

It starts to get to my head. Someone walks in with a little whiteboard with my name and phone number on it. I'm led into a cramped room where a singular studio light is aimed towards a blank wall, and a really kind and encouraging woman is taking photographs. I stand tall in the glare of the spotlight and smile. I'm told to show my teeth, even though I look cuter with my mouth shut.

After a couple more profile shots, I'm asked to take off my shoes and go next door for measurements.

Step four: The guessing game

This is where it gets interesting.

As they measure me from head-to-toe, my mind is whirring with possibilities of what I would be wearing for this potential extra role. An alien costume? A metallic leotard? A high-tech robot suit?

They took all the standard measurements -- height, shoulders, crown, bust, waist, sleeve inseam. But intriguingly, they also measured my aACAyglove', or the space between my wrist and the tip of my middle finger, and my ring finger. (Was Idris Elba going to propose to me? Or was this a sign that the extras would have to wear some sort of full armour?)

At the end of it all, they put me in a couple of blazers to see which one fell right on my shoulders, jotted down my shoe size, and sent me on my way.

Step five: The comedown

My fifteen minutes (or two hours) of pre-fame have come to an end. I'm told that I'm all good to go and sent out of the room. My adrenaline is a goner and I slump back out into the real world. On some level, I feel like a different woman, but nothing has changed outside of those glass doors -- certainly not the 45 degree heat.

*Casting continues on August 12 and 13 in Dubai Studio City, Soundstage Building B, on the ground floor, 2-8pm. Hopefuls are asked to bring their passport or Emirates ID. For more information, contact

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Aug 13, 2015
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