Barrington High School student Austin Grzebieniak has been spending much of his time recently on the set of “Divergent,” a Neil Burger-directed film that is expected to premiere in 2014.
New to acting, the 16-year-old BHS junior already is working alongside “Divergent” star Kate Winslet while the crew films in downtown Chicago. The futuristic movie is based on a novel by Veronica Roth, where teenagers divide into societal factions depending on their traits and interests.
Roth graduated from BHS in 2006 and wrote “Divergent” at the age of 20 while enrolled in Northwestern University’s creative writing program. The novel was a New York Times bestseller only one year later, and Roth sold the film rights when she was 22.
According to Grzebieniak’s talent manager, Debra Papas, Austin is one of only 20 teens cast for the film, and will most likely advance to a larger role if the initial “wardrobe days” go well.
“He’s very marketable,” Papas said. “We are very particular about who we take.”
Barrington Life reporter Tarah Thorne interviewed Grzebieniak by email.
How long have you lived in the Barrington area?
I have lived in the Barrington area for 16 years.
What are some of your favorite things to do or see in Barrington?
I love longboarding in my neighborhood because of all the hills. Playing pick up basketball and working out at Langendorf Park District gym. Hanging out with my friends in my neighborhood and in town.
What has your work with “Divergent” been like?
It’s been fun being on a movie set and seeing how it all works. I am thrilled that while filming, the director has asked to meet me personally for yet another role. I’m really thrilled, honored and excited. I am meeting some really neat people on set. I’ve become friends with two guys who also are represented by Bravo Talent Management (of South Barrington).
Overall It’s been a great experience and I hope I get more opportunities like this. I love acting and modeling. I can’t thank George and Deb (of Bravo Talent Management) enough for all of their confidence in me. George for great, great, pictures that get me in the door, and Deb for representing me and booking me and sending me on castings, with endless opportunities.
What has been your favorite part of the movie production process thus far?
My favorite part of the movie production process is all of the people I have met. They are all wonderful and so friendly. I have yet to meet somebody I do not like.
How long have you been on set? What is an average day like?
As of now I have only gone two of my days, but there are many more to come. It is fun being on set and off, if you’re not helping out with a scene you’re interacting and meeting new people. It is a great experience overall.
What do you anticipate to be most challenging?
It is a lot of memorizing, so when we are working for a very long time it is going to be the fatigue that sets in and you have to push through it.
How long have you been acting/modeling?
I just started this year. My mom bought a Groupon from Papadakis Photography for a models test photo-shoot. I learned that George shoots ads and hires models and actors as well. I just wanted to experience what it was like to model. We went in and after taking a few photos, George said that there could be some possibilities we could explore. So we made a comp (photo) card with George Papadakis and I was immediately represented by Bravo Talent Management. I started to get a few opportunities pretty quickly.
Do you have any advice for someone who is looking to begin acting or modeling?
Just go for it. I made the decision to just get some pictures done, and then I ended up becoming a model. It can happen anyhow or anyway, you cannot be scared, you just have to go.
What are your future plans? Will you stay in Barrington?
I’ll be a junior at Barrington High School this coming year. After I graduate in 2015, I’ll head off to college. I’m interested in math and computer science. Hopefully Bravo Talent Management can keep getting me work through college. After college, well that’s six years away so I won’t predict that far out.
What else are you looking forward to during summer break? Have you began booking other casting calls?
I’m looking forward to just relaxing and having a nice laid back summer especially before my junior year. I have gotten one or two, but they are in the state! So I will not be traveling anywhere far!