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Lights! Camera! Movie jobs!

When the cast and crew of the movie "The Savages" hit town later this week for three days of filming, dozens of Buffalonians will be playing behind-the-scenes roles.

Although there will be no casting call for on-screen work, a full cast of local production technicians, caterers, drivers, security guards and hospitality workers are getting into the act, according to Tim Clark, executive director of the Buffalo Niagara Film Commission.

"I've been on the phone nonstop," Clark said. "There are so many little details that need to be worked out ahead of their arrival so they can hit the ground running. It's really exciting for me and the community."

"The Savages," a dramatic comedy set in Buffalo, stars Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney as siblings struggling to reconnect with their estranged father who has moved to Buffalo to be near his kids.

As Hoffman and Linney go about their business, more than a dozen local film industry employees will be assisting Fox Searchlight Productions' primary crew.

Mike Mathews, owner of Buffalo-based Scene and Herd Productions, is in charge of putting together the local crew. He said it's always fun to make those phone calls.

"Unfortunately, these opportunities don't come often, but when they do, we've got plenty of talent to fill the jobs," Mathews said. "It's a nice way to supplement your income and it doesn't look
bad on your resume either."

Being on a set with Hoffman, who earlier this month won the Best Actor Oscar for his title role in "Capote," also will add to the experience, he said.

Last fall, Mathews rounded up a crew to help with shooting the season finale of the "Amazing Race" television series. Now he is calling on many of those same people to join "The Savages" team.

"We'll have between 12 and 18 local people on this one. The majority of the positions are production assistants, but there are also some second- and third-tier crew positions which people are thrilled to get," he said.

The film's production schedule is being kept under wraps, but sources confirmed that Hoffman, Linney and the rest of the crew will arrive as early as today and are expected to be here through Sunday.

Cameras will be trained on the Erie County Medical Center and the Niagara Thruway near the Black Rock toll barrier. An undisclosed North Buffalo pizza parlor will make the big screen, along with "beauty shots" of Buffalo residential neighborhoods and the city's skyline. Film crews also will travel to Niagara Falls for additional scenes.

Mayor Byron W. Brown's communications director, Peter K. Cutler, said the mayor has been briefed on the filming and will have Buffalo police at the ready to aid with crowd and traffic control. "We're thrilled with the opportunity for Buffalo to be the backdrop for 'The Savages' and even more excited that this city is part of the story line. This is a chance for Buffalo to shine," Cutler said.

Clark just took over the helm of the three-year-old local film commission, which is now being operated under the auspices of the Buffalo Convention & Visitors Bureau. He said "The Savages" shoot provides an immediate return on Erie County's $150,000 investment in the agency for 2006.

"The film commission is all about bringing outside revenues and outside attention to the Buffalo and Niagara region. When Fox Searchlight called, we were ready to help them find locations and marshal the troops," Clark said.

e-mail: slinstedt@buffnews.com

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