I was in a movie!
Of course, so were at least 100 other people who were hired as extras or background actors in the filming of “Marshall.” The film is being shot here in Western New York this summer and tells of the trial that launched the career of the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
Like the other background actors, I submitted my headshot and bio to the film company and three days later I got a call to report for a wardrobe fitting.
Over the years, I have been involved as an actor in community theater and have been involved in broadcasting, but making a movie – this was something new and exciting.
At the wardrobe fitting, I met some delightful people who took their time finding just the right costumes for the two scenes I was to be in. They took pictures of me in costume to use as a reference on the day of the actual shoot.
About a week later, I received a call to report to the set at 9 a.m. When I arrived, I was met by a crew member who made sure that I had the necessary paperwork filled out.
This film is a period piece and takes place in the early ’40s. We were taken to the makeup and hair styling studios, where I was given a haircut reminiscent of that era. When they finished, I was awestruck. The actors, both male and female, around me looked as if they had just stepped out of some time machine. We were from the ’40s.
Background actors are an integral part of making any film. They are the canvas on which the primary actors work their magic. The background actors’ job is to react to what is playing out in front of them without being obvious.
We were escorted to the set and given our instructions by the associate director. A movie set is sometimes organized chaos as all of the elements of making the film must come together precisely.
After a few run-throughs using doubles (the second team), the principal actors (the first team) came on the set and did their thing. A scene that will last about two minutes on the screen takes hours to film. The action is recorded using different camera angles and can take hours to get just right.
We all were part of this major film. The associate director silenced the set as he shouted, “Rolling … camera … action!” Wow, we’re making a movie and I’m really in it.
I thought that perhaps we background actors would be treated as peons during the filming because we were not professional movie actors. I couldn’t be more wrong. The film crew treated us all with great respect. We were made to feel special.
A school friend from years ago wrote to me to say that she had taught ninth-grade English to Josh Gad, one of the stars of the movie, and she asked if I could say hello for her. He was delighted and asked if I would pose for a picture with him to send to his former teacher. Gad is a very down-to-earth guy.
I came away from my days making a movie with a tremendous amount of respect for the men and women of the film industry who work very hard to bring their collective efforts to the screen.
So, as I say farewell to my two days in the movie biz, I say thanks, and I’ll see you in the movies!