Live Well, Do Good

Adventures in Film-Making

Brandon Sun, June 10, 2007 - David McConkey

Once Upon A Time
It all started one Sunday when my wife noticed an item in the Brandon Sun: there was going to be an open casting call for a movie in Brandon. "The Heaven Project" was being filmed partly at the old Brandon Mental Health Centre. Extras were required. Just bring a current photo to City Hall on Tuesday.

Many Are Called, But Few Are Chosen

I stood in line for two hours amidst a hopeful throng. Most of the crowd were teenage girls with Hollywood stars in their eyes: a chance to be in movie with Paul Walker!

A grey haired old man like me stood out. I might just stand a chance.

Indeed I did. Late Thursday evening, I received a phone call: Would I be available the next day from morning until after midnight? Yes!

The next day, I reported for duty. BMHC was standing in for a psychiatric facility in Oregon. We extras would be the hospital “patients,” “staff,” and “visitors” who would people the background. In the final production, we may or may not be actually seen.

We heard that of the 600 at City Hall, only 15 were chosen.

Working Nine To Five

You don’t get much notice when you’re a movie extra. Those in the group who were self-employed, worked part-time, retired, or between jobs, found it easier to make the time to be an extra. But what of those who had more regular jobs?

One of our group actually had turned down the original invitation. She was scheduled to work that day and also had another commitment that weekend. But when she got to work, her boss and co-workers persuaded her to change her mind. Take the day off work, postpone the weekend commitment, go be in a movie, they said to her. Now, that’s a supportive workplace!

There’s No Business Like Show Business

Being an extra is a glimpse behind the scenes. Making a movie, we quickly discovered, is a lot of shooting a scene, then again, then again, and then again. Then there is the waiting, and waiting, and waiting. (But, yes, we did get to be oh-so-close to Paul Walker.)

After many takes, the shooting with us in front of the Valleyview Building was completed. We were sent back to our “holding” room in the Parkland Building. To wait some more.

The World Is Too Much With Us

Even though Hollywood has lots of money and glamour, it is still of this world. The weather, which was gorgeous, was not co-operating for the film makers. They actually wanted rain.

At one point, yelling broke the quiet of the set. Something about Paul Walker. Of yeah, just out of sight, but not out of earshot, were the residents of the Brandon Correctional Centre. I guess they were outside for a break. Settle down, guys.
It’s A Wonderful Life

Of course, Hollywood stars have fantastic lives (don’t they?). I’m often impressed, however, by how “ordinary” lives can be great in their own way.

For the most part, we extras had commonplace lives and work: retired, health care, farmer, lumber yard, retail, small business. Yet, our group seemed to be people who find delight in the everyday. Also, people who grab chances like this one to make life just a bit more interesting.

Conversations flowed easily as we introduced ourselves and shared thoughts about our lives, the community, and other topics from religion and art to politics and the stock market. Our group came together and bonded with warmth and laughter.

Speaking of laughter, I’m also impressed at the wonderful sense of humour people have. At least we found our quips and comments to be absolutely hilarious!

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow 

During our last hours of waiting, film staff would appear every so often. They would announce that soon we would be called to start shooting again.

But it was not to be. A little after ten o’clock in the evening, we were told that plans had changed. Our day of being an extra was over.

We exchanged good byes. We knew we might never see one another again. But we left with that special feeling of having shared a unique experience.

* * * 

See also:

Six Words To Describe A Life?

Deepening Our Thinking in the Internet Age: Ten Tips

A Year of Living Generously

Ordinary Lives, Extraordinary Stories

The 4-Hour Workweek

Live Well, Do Good

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