I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, having never done anything like this before. I figured I'd get there a bit early, hang out with maybe a few hundred other people, have them take my name and contact info, and head home by 1:00 or 1:30.
Not so much.
I did indeed arrive about 45 minutes early. But there was enough traffic that it took me 15 minutes to park after I first pulled into the Holiday Inn parking lot. And the only reason I parked that quickly was because I went to the Red Roof Inn across the street.
There was already a noticeable line, which I stepped in at around 11:30. It looked like this...
Not surprisingly, small pockets of groups formed in the line as people got to know each other while standing together. There was a fairly quick realization that things were going to take a while, so most people tried breaking down barriers early on. I overheard many (what I hope were) jokes about trying to meet director Joss Whedon or actor Robert Downey Jr. today. Or how it would be super-cool if we got cast as SHIELD agents.
There seemed to me a refreshingly diverse mix of people there. I figured it would be heavily fanboyish and, while they were clearly represented well, there were all sorts of other people too. Obviously, the aspiring actors and actresses with resumes in hand but also a range of folks who just heard about this and thought it might be interesting and/or fun. Plus, one thing that I'm ashamed to admit hadn't occurred to me prior to going, someone mentioned that he was guessing about half of the attendees were simply out of work and needed a job of any sort.
The weather for the first two hours or so was pleasant. A bit warm, but it was overcast so things weren't unbearable. Once the sun came out -- right around the time I got to the parking lot pavement -- most people started sweating pretty heavily. We did that for about an hour before we got close enough to the actual building to stand in the shade.
Now, me? I don't mind the heat all that much, but I am relatively fair-skinned, so I tried to stick to the shade as much as possible. Not figuring on such a huge turnout, and having to wait for hours outside, I didn't bring sunblock. Not surprisingly, I could see by my reflection in some of the glass doors that I still got a bit red.
It wasn't until after 4:00 that I and the folks around me got inside. Casting coordinator Maryellen Aviano did at one point say that everybody who was in line at 4:00 would get seen, but there was clearly another 3-4 hours' worth of people still in line when I left around 4:30. I don't know how long they continued bringing people in after I left; for all I know, they still are as of this writing!
Once I was inside, things went quickly. Aviano essentially told us that 4+ hour wait was not unlike what actual filming would be like. Generally 10-14 hour days in August in downtown Cleveland. The line itself was actually a trial, deliberately set up as a way to winnow the number of candidates down and prepare those who remained for what filming would be like. No one seemed dissuaded, so we all filled out some paperwork and got our pictures taken for reference.
My chances of actually getting a call back, I figure, are about nil. I was given #1688, suggesting that there were at least 1600 people before me in line. And they're just going to go through the photos and pick the first 1000 (or however many) people they need that fit whatever basic visuals they're shooting for. A certain percentage of women versus men, different ratios of races and ages. I'm going to try to second-guess what they're looking for, but I do know that there were enough people there on Day One (with another casting call tomorrow) to more than fill the spaces they need. So are they going to even bother calling the generic white guy who got kind of burnt by the time they took my photo? If they just go down the list to call the first 2000 people and if they assume the redness in my photo is just color-distortion of the camera (oddly, I cooked relatively evenly for some reason and there was no other red hues for comparison in the picture) they might call me. I'm not about to hold my breath, but it was still interesting from the education/experience perspective.
Here's a local news report covering the event (with a short ad embedded before it). If you look quickly, you can kind of see me checking my phone behind the guy in the purple shirt 8-9 seconds into the news clip.