The Business Journal - April 12, 1996
LITTLE MR. HOLLYWOOD
Who's this "Nowhere Man"? He's an 18-year-old with his own business, a snappy car - and a heart of gold.
Terri Stoltz can clearly remember the day her son laid out his grand plans for the future.
At the tender age of 10, as the family sat on the bleachers watching his sister play soccer, Danny Stoltz announced that "he was going to be an actor and have his own business," his mom recalls.
Just six years later, her precocious youngster realized his dream.
Danny Stoltz quit high school two years ago at age 16 to pursue full-time work in showbiz. Soon after, he quit the casting agency he had been working for, and with the help of an adult business partner, he founded Extras Only - a casting agency that supplies background players for feature films, television series, commercials, and industrial films.
Today, Stoltz is the majority owner of a company responsible for casting hundreds of extras for the locally produced television series "Nowhere Man." Though Stoltz wouldnít disclose annual revenues, the company is awash in work, itís profitable, and its young president appears to be living quite comfortably.
"My headís spinning," says the energetic and talkative Stoltz of his whirlwind success. "See that? he asks, pointing out the window of his Old Town offices. "thatís a brand-new convertible red Mustang. Thatís my dream car. I paid cash for it. Sometimes I think, 'I'm 18 years old, I have a car and I have money,' and I can't believe it!"
As far as realizing the acting part of his dream, Stoltz has appeared in a number of plays and films. In the April 1 episode of "Nowhere Man," Stoltz played a persecuted private-school student who gets beat up in the opening scene and is later hanged from the rafters of a chapel by classmates brainwashed to do evil by their headmaster.
In real life, Stoltz is no such pushover.
In fact, says his mom, "He was always real ambitious, and he always gets what he wants."
Much like the dynamite-charged bus in the movie "Speed," Stoltz has pushed ahead with his career plans no matter what obstacles stood in his way.
When he was turned away by a talent agent in sixth grade, he set out on a mission to find movie work on his own. In eighth grade he was hired as an extra on "To My Daughter With Love," a cable movie featuring former child star Ricky Schroeder. When the casting director fired her assistant during that production, Stoltz jumped in to help, doing tasks as menial as passing out Tootsie Rolls to the other young actors to keep them content.
As a sophomore in high school, he landed a casting job at Portland-based Thumbs Up Casting. He spent countless hours scouting for extras, scheduling them for film shoots and herding them around the set. The job soon demanded all of his time, he says.
He cajoled his mother into writing excuses for him to skip school. He talked his school counselor into giving him a reduced schedule. He quit his job at McDonald's. Finally, over every objection from parents and teachers, he quit school to devote all his time to casting work.
"I could not talk him into returning," says Beverly Bain, Stoltz's school counselor at Gladstone High School and one of his biggest fans. "He knew what he wanted to do - which is very unusual for a kid his age - and he went for it." Bain says she lost some critical bait to keep Stoltz when the school's drama program was slashed due to budget cuts.
"I hated school with a passion," says Stoltz. "I wanted to be working. My classes didn't have anything to do with what I was interested in."
Terri Stoltz says she tried every argument to keep her son in school, but they fell on deaf ears. "My husband and I both quit high school, and we regretted it," she says. "We thought he at least ought to get his GED. But he's doing fine now. I think he did the right thing."
After quitting school, Stoltz became disenchanted at Thumbs Up - especially when the company stopped paying him, he quit in May 1994.
"When I quit, I thought I was finished," he says. "I called all my connections and they all hung up on me, partly because of (my previous employer) and partly because of my age. I thought, 'This is not going to happen. I'm going to keep going until I get what I want.'"
He got a tip that "Mr. Holland's Opus" was due to be cast by local agent Don Campeau. "There were 5,000 extras," says Stoltz. I knew there was a lot of work for this. I thought if I'm not going to work on this film, I'm not going to work at all."
After unsuccessfully lobbying Campeau for casting work, Stoltz got a foot on the set working as a water boy. "It was horrible," he says. "All the teen-agers I was giving water to were making fun of me, but I just kept thinking, 'I'm on a set, that's all that's important.'"
Before long, Stoltz says, Campeau needed help handling the extras, and he hired Stoltz as assistant casting director. Stoltz hoped he had a future at Campeau's company, but soon after "Mr. Holland" wrapped, Campeau sold out. The new owners weren't interested in hiring a 16-year-old, says Stoltz.
Having exhausted every possibility to work for someone else, Stoltz decided to work for himself. He approached Monica Rodriguez, a local casting agent he knew, about the possibility of a partnership.
"I knew of him because he had worked around town, and I knew the kid knew his stuff," says Rodriguez, a thirty-something entrepreneur who started Actors Only casting agency four years ago. "His being a minor, I wasn't sure I wanted to get involved. But he let me know he wanted a partner, not an employer. He impressed me."
After several meetings with Stoltz, "He made me see there was a market for another extras company," says Rodriguez. "He had the energy and eagerness, I had the connections."
Stoltz says he and Rodriguez started the venture as 50-50 partners, each bringing $200 in seed money to the start-up. "We started with a folding table and a plastic chair and a pencil from home," laughs Stoltz, who now occupies several tidy offices on Northwest Fifth Avenue.
"The company went bonkers from the beginning..." says Rodriguez, who recently pared her involvement in Extras Only to concentrate on her other business.
Their first job together was "The Ox and the eye," a film starring James Earl Jones that was shot in Portland and on the coast.
"Monica made the call, and when we got the job I was the happiest guy!" says Stoltz emphatically. "I screamed, 'I got a film! I'm gonna be the casting director on a major motion picture!!'"
Their next big break was "Foxfire," a feature film that hasn't yet been released. "We had to hire 3,000 teen-agers. We worked our butts off," says Stoltz.
"It was insane," confirms Rodriguez. "When we got the job we had almost no time to put it together. The first day on the set, we hadn't slept in three days," she says. We told (the producers) we had 297 extras there, plus three coming on the bus, and they were just blown away. They said, 'We just said 300, we didn't really expect 300.' They talked us up all over town and in LA."
Despite their success, both business partners admit that Stoltz's youth caused some credibility problems early on.
"His age was a detriment in the beginning," says Rodriguez. "We kept him hidden away, in the office on the phone, until we got established."
In fact, at least a few of his clients were still unaware of his age when this reporter called for an interview.
"I've never met him, but I think he's quite young - probably 25," said Pamela Standley, a producer at MIRA Creative Group in Portland who has used Extras Only exclusively for nearly a year. When informed of Stoltz's true age, Standley said, "You're kidding! He's such a professional. Even if I call at the last minute, he gets what we need. That means a lot in this business."
Part of the key to the company's success, according to clients, is the large number of extras they have at the ready and the quality of the talent.
Extras Only has about 1,000 extras on file currently, says Rodriguez. Extras pay $20 a year to have their photos and vital statistics filed with the company. The company offers beginning acting classes to help hone the extras' skills and provides written instructions on proper on-set conduct. If an extra ends the year without a single placement, Extras Only gives them another year's membership for free.
Doug Zimmerman, a Fox 49 promotions producer and sometime actor, has worked for Stoltz for about eight months, performing in industrial films and in "Nowhere Man." Zimmerman says he's happy working for Stoltz, but he has learned that the busy casting director hasn't got a lot of time for chit-chat.
"He always wants you to be truthful when he calls you for a job. If you say no, he just says, "That's OK, byeÖ" and he calls the next person. He doesn't want to hear your excuses. And he really doesn't want you to say yes and then not show," says Zimmerman.
"What Danny does is very challenging," says Nannette Troutman, casting director on "Nowhere Man."
She explains that the show's plot "takes you to a different city each week. We had a Nicaragua episode where he had to come up with a lot of Hispanic extras. That was very challenging for him, and he and Monica managed to pull it off. He's got a lot of energy, a lot of chutzpah."
Such chutzpah can come in handy when you're faced with a life-and-death situation, as Stoltz was last month when he helped save a family from a dangerous house fire.
On March 18, Stoltz and his cousin David were driving in Stoltz's new convertible when they saw flames leaping from a house on Southeast 15th Avenue and a distraught teen-ager running across the yard, calling for help.
Stoltz and his cousin jumped out of the car and helped teen-ager Mike Jenkins get his parents out of the house, just before it was engulfed in flames. The family had no homeowner's insurance.
In the weeks since then, Stoltz has set up a hot line for his friends and work acquaintances to donate money, time and household goods to help the family start anew. So far, he's collected $900, a dining room set, a bedroom set and a cache of appliances. He even got newfound friend Mike Jenkins a gig as an extra.
Seeing the family lose their home "just got to me," explains Stoltz. "It just makes you think how much you have to lose, and realize you shouldn't take what you have for granted."