LOS ANGELES – Last year, 15-year-old Noah Dahl found himself on the set of a Hollywood movie, observing the cameramen as they filmed “The Black Dahlia Haunting.”
The crew didn’t at all mind taking the time to show Dahl how they operate the equipment.
“I got to do some of the lighting and sound, and that was a lot of fun,” he said.
Now graduated from high school and looking at colleges, Dahl said he may explore a career as a cinematographer, the chief overseeing the camera and lighting crews working on a film, responsible for achieving the artistic and technical decisions made by the director.
Handling that critical task behind the camera, Dahl said, looks like a rewarding artistic endeavor.
“It’s seeing a room differently from other people, seeing it how you want the audience to see it,” he said.
If he does pursue that career, Dahl may have a distinct advantage as he learns to work behind the camera. When he went to the set of “The Black Dahlia Haunting,” he was not there as a student on a field trip. He was actually in front of the cameras throughout the entire shoot, as one of the movie’s stars.
The 2012 thriller by director Brandon Slagle gave Dahl top billing along with Devanny Pinn and Britt Griffith. And it wasn’t even the film debut for Dahl, a child actor whose past credits also include “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” “Henry Poole Is Here,” and “Abduction,” along with appearances in television shows like “Desperate Housewives” and “Private Practice.”
He’s accomplished a lot since 2005, when he made his debut in “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” starring Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.
Acting has long been a passion for Dahl, who was born four days after Christmas in 1997 in Fontana, Calif.
“I think I was probably five years old” when the acting bug first bit him, Dahl said. “But I didn’t get serious about it until I was 10. I was doing a lot of ‘extra’ work, but I decided to get serious about it.”
His parents, Paul and Alicia Dahl, have been strong supporters of his acting and film career – though they admit that at first, they were a bit worried.
Paul Dahl said his son was attending the same school as another child actor, Adam Wylie, perhaps best known for his role in the 1990s TV series “Picket Fences.”
It was Wylie, Paul Dahl noted, who spotted Noah’s potential.
“Adam was a student of mine,” said Dahl, who teaches in the California public school system. “He said Noah had the perfect look and an outstanding personality, and he said ‘I want to introduce him to my agent.’ Noah must have been in the seventh or eighth grade then.”
Wylie’s agent also recognized Noah Dahl’s potential, and began finding him work as an extra in films. Then he got his break, landing a role in a movie being filmed in Louisiana. The crew was about to fly Noah Dahl out to that state when, at the last minute, the production company called and said in an effort to save money, they had hired a local actor instead.
It was the kind of call, Paul Dahl said, that almost made the family think twice about having young Noah set out on a film career.
“He was devastated,” Paul Dahl said. “As a parent, it was tough to see him get his hopes up and then have it crash. At this point, his mom said ‘I can’t put up with this anymore.’ ”
But Noah Dahl bounced back more quickly than his parents had expected. He realized that rejection was a natural part of the film industry, and learned to roll with the punches and keep auditioning. And it paid off when he got hired to be in “Mr. & Mrs. Smith.”
“It’s been his choice,” Paul Dahl said. “I do like the attention he is getting from other people. That’s the proud parent in me.”
Noah Dahl noted that he’s worked hard, taking acting lessons and finding his own agent, and he said if movie making sounds glamorous, it’s also a lot of hard work.
“Everyone thinks it’s all fun and games, but it is a business,” he said. “Although it does look really fun, you’re expected to act like an adult and be one. You grow up fast on a movie set.”
Besides a talent for acting, what performers really need, he said, is something else.
“Another big part is patience,” he said. “For some people, they go on their first audition and make it big, but it can take five or six years to hit it.”
Noah Dahl said in addition to the disappointment of not landing a role, aspiring actors also need to be aware of how incredibly competitive, even cutthroat, this industry can be.
“It’s the two-faced people,” he said. “There’s a lot of deception in this business. As long as you know about that and prepare yourself for it, you’ll be fine.”
Noah Dahl plans to continue his movie career while attending college, and he said he shares the same interests as other teens – music, sports, and dirt biking, among them.
He also has a great time living in Los Angeles.
“I love it,” he said. “The weather is great, and the beaches – I think it’s fantastic.”
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