Sadie Dorst isn’t your average middle schooler. While other kids her age are trying to find balance between school, sports, and socializing, Dorst is trying to juggle all of that on top of a blossoming acting career. With wisdom well beyond her 13 years, Dorst isn’t looking to be on a path to stardom, however; she just wants to be able to forge a career doing something she loves.
Dorst got her first taste of acting at age 5 when she landed a part in a local theater production of Newsies in her home state of Maryland. Not long after, her family moved to Truckee and she continued to pursue theater, appearing in upwards of 40 productions by the time she was 10. It was around that age when Dorst began to long for more than theater acting could offer her.
“Theater is just a completely different type of acting than film is,” Dorst said. “It’s very, very loud, and film is — not to say that film isn’t loud — but it’s more realistic and down to earth. So, when you’re doing theater, or even a play, it’s very exaggerated … [In] film, you can really get everything down to the little details and make it just perfect, and theater, you really only have a couple of chances on stage, live, to do that.”
The Covid lockdown period brought with it a time of transition for Dorst, who had already expressed a desire to go to LA and had started venturing into film before she decided that theater was no longer a good fit. Her first audition came at age 6 for a film The Weather Channel was producing about the Donner Party.
“She was the only kid that went into the [audition] room by herself,” recalled Dorst’s mom, Sandra. “Everybody else took their parent in, and she was like, ‘No.’” Her daughter did score a backup role as one of the Donner children, a setup in case any of the other kids dropped out for some reason. However, as soon as Sandra attended the parents’ meeting, she knew it was unlikely her daughter would get called. “There was a family with six kids that were from the same family that were playing the Donner kids, and they didn’t look anything like Sadie,” she said. “So, I was like, ‘Okay, you’re never going to get that role.’”
Sandra had early on told her daughter that before trying to make it in LA, she needed to have success in the Truckee Community Theater. From there, she could try to make a go of it in the Reno film and commercial industry, which Sandra says is more robust than one would expect. If that was successful, then Sadie could pursue LA. When the pandemic hit and the Truckee Community Theater went on hiatus, it was the impetus for Dorst to further explore film.
She auditioned for Justine Reyes of Tru Talent Agency in Reno and was signed shortly thereafter. Her first roles were in commercials for Heavenly Ski Resort and Hilton Grand Vacations. A few years into her Reno acting classes, Dorst attended The Industry Network, a biannual convention designed to promote emerging talent to leading agents, managers, and casting directors.
“Basically, you go, and you have scripts and monologues and modeling and stuff prepared,” Dorst said. “There’s lots of agents in LA that are there … if they like, then they’ll call you back and you can potentially sign with them. So, I went to that and I signed with Sovereign Talent Group.”
There’s so much more to the acting industry than being in television and film blockbusters, Sandra explained. Acting opportunities come in commercials, educational films, and industry shorts, such as training videos. And just as everything else in the world was forced to pivot during the pandemic, so was the process for auditions. Now, rather than appearing in person, actors create a self-tape, which is essentially a videotaped audition.
“I think I’ve probably done over a hundred self-tapes,” Dorst said. “Last year was kind of crazy because there was just a ton of auditions. It’s been kind of mellow this year.”
In another pivot, the audition process for Dorst has evolved. Agents are now seeking her out to audition for specific roles, which indicates she’s getting noticed. She’s read for parts in productions with Chris Pine and Bradley Cooper, as well as for series like Gaslit, starring Julia Roberts and Sean Penn, and NCIS.
By the time casting the smaller, non-headlining parts in a film or TV series comes about, everything else is in place, and the audition call can come in at the eleventh hour. Even still, the eighth-grader says she finds that film acting is a lot less stressful than theater because there are more chances to get something just right. There’s also a lot more room for improvisation. In theater, the improv is typically comedic, whereas in film, she can incorporate more in the way of dramatic improvisation.
“My favorite part about acting is getting to play different characters, because there’s such a variety of what you can do and who you can play,” Dorst said. “I’ve been in, I think, six or seven short films, and they’re all different. One of them was about dissociative identity disorder, and another one was fourth grade girls on a playground. So, I think my favorite part is expressing myself through different characters because I’m very rarely playing myself, but I can incorporate things from my life to make a character.”
In the end, it isn’t fortune and fame that is driving Dorst to follow the bright lights of the film industry. “I would hope that … I don’t want to say big, but that I booked something that’s really successful,” Dorst said. “I don’t really care as much about fame. I just want to be successful. I want to make a living out of it, but also, I just hope that I can continue doing what I’m doing now.”