LOS ANGELES — The task for the young cast of "Earth to Echo" — Teo Halm, Brian "Astro" Bradley, Reese Hartwig and Ella Wahlestedt — was to play four young people who have known each other all their lives. They trust each other so much that they are willing to go on a treacherous adventure to save an alien.
To find that bond, they spent a week before filming together. They ate together; they went indoor skydiving; they went bowling. From that, they were not only able to play best friends on screen, but the actors have become friends away from the cameras.
"We are really good friends now," Halm says. "For all of us, this was our first big production and we had a collective nervousness. I think that helped us bond."
Once they had the connections, the rest came easy. The actors praise director Dave Green for trying to keep the film as natural as possible. This even included allowing the four young performers to redo lines of dialogue that didn't sound organic.
Bradley adds that in films with a lot of young actors, like "Earth to Echo," it's better to have less acting and more just "being a kid."
The actors may be young — Bradley is 17, the rest 15 — but they already have numerous credits. Halm's other films include "Bukowski" and "Memoria." Hartwig's credits include "NCIS," "The Muppets" and "All I Want for Christmas." Along with being a member of the cast of "Army Wives," Wahlestedt has starred in "The Glades" and the TV movie "Divide & Conquer."
Bradley has done some acting, but the former "The X Factor" contestant calls music his first love.
"Acting is something I'm trying out," says Bradley, who's better known as Astro in the music world. "The motto on any movie set is hurry up and wait. I was getting mad because I'm young, and I like being active all the time. But, you have to sit there for 30 minutes while they get the camera ready."
The actors agree that the only downside to working on "Earth to Echo" was the weather on set. Desert shoots at night were so cold that they often wore multiple layers of clothes. Then, during the day, the heat was almost stifling.
Wahlestedt says the hardest parts about filming "Earth to Echo" were the scenes where they had to work to a blank area and imagine what would be added later.
Halm faced a more physical test when dealing with the film's central character. Instead of just having the actors look at a spot where a computer-generated alien would be added later, artists made a very expensive version of Echo. Halm says he was always afraid that he was going to drop the prop.
He held on tight enough to finish the movie about four young people on an overnight adventure that takes them into several dangerous encounters. They agree that the adventures their characters go through don't come close to the adventure they are having of making and promoting a movie.
"My biggest adventure is happening right now," Hartwig says.
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355.