Friday, November 5, 2004

Acting – Brilliant!

FDR (Kenneth Branaugh) addresses the 1928 crowdThe 1920 crowd and Tabernacle decoration1920 crowd and campaign signs
This November the boys of Cloudjammer – Patrick Greer, J.D. Jordan, and Fleming Patterson – starred in HBO’s upcoming feature film, Warm Springs. In such breakout roles as “tall man in the crowd,” “Vermont delegate #4,” and “young man in the balcony,” we stole the show from more veteran actors. We were film stars. We were actors.

We were the extras.

HBO filmed Warm Springs between Atlanta, Lake Lanier, and Warm Springs, itself, relying heavily on local talent to fill in the “background.” When Cloudjammer heard that the casting company was having trouble finding enough Caucasian males we answered the call. Unfortunately, the call was for 5:00am.

Warm Springs
is the biography of the 32nd president of the US, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, directed by veteran director Joe Sargent and starring Kenneth Branaugh (Henry V, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets), Kathy Bates (Misery, Fried Green Tomatoes), Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City). The film focuses on FDR’s pre-presidency days, from his time in the New York State Senate to his being diagnosed with polio in 1921, one year after his unsuccessful bid for the White House as presidential nominee James Cox's running mate.

For the two days we participated in the movie shoot, the film’s production company, 32nd President Productions, transformed the Tabernacle in Downtown Atlanta into the 1928 Arizona and 1920 San Francisco Democratic Conventions. Clad in vintage suits, we fleshed out FDR’s (Kenneth Branaugh) cheering crowd and on-stage delegates. We sat behind Eleanor Roosevelt (Cynthia Nixon) in the VIP box. Some extras even got to do close-ups for a newsreel reproduction and were offered higher-paying speaking roles.

As extras, we were costumed and made-up (including haircuts) in the exhibition hall of the CNN Omni hotel. From there we were shuttled to staggered holding areas in the Tabernacle itself – organized into color coded groups based on the period quality of our costume/appearance. We shot scenes in the decorated concert hall, the balconies, even backstage. But mostly we waited and watched the crew do their job – in many ways, the most interesting part of the entire experience.

We only made $200 for two 14-hour days, but the experience was both memorable and fun. We met a lot of interesting people, got to film scenes with great actors, watch a Hollywood movie I production and, while waiting between scenes, we got to catch up on our reading. And what did HBO get out of the two-day shoot? 500 extras a day and two minutes of footage.

If you’re interested in doing extra work, there is plenty of it available – from movies like Stroke of Genius and Dumb and Dumberer to myriad advertisements. Just keep your eyes on the newspapers (social publications, too, like Creative Loafing). You’ll get to see how movie magic is made, likely get a free haircut, and, if you’re lucky, actually end up on film.

See you in the movies. fb

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