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Extras, extras: Read all about them

Behind the scenes at casting call in Shelburne Falls

Recorder/Mike Phillips
People wanting to be movie extras for the upcoming filming of "The Judge" in Shelburne Falls wait their turn outside Buckland Town Hall on Saturday.

Recorder/Mike Phillips People wanting to be movie extras for the upcoming filming of "The Judge" in Shelburne Falls wait their turn outside Buckland Town Hall on Saturday.

SHELBURNE FALLS — Hundreds flocked to the Buckland Town Hall Saturday, each seeking their 15 minutes of fame.

“We’re looking for extras for a movie being made by Warner Brothers,” Aaron Kahl, casting director for Boston Casting, told the crowd. “I can’t get much more specific than that. But you probably already know what movie it is, and who the stars are, thanks to the Internet.”

That movie, unless everyone was horribly mistaken, is “The Judge,” starring Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall and Vera Farmiga.

According to Kahl, shooting in Shelburne Falls will go from May 31 to June 18. Extras chosen can expect to be called to action for any of those days, with little notice.

“They build this great schedule of scenes and actors; it’s really a work of art,” Kahl explained. “Then, on the first day of shooting, it rains, or someone calls out sick, and they tear the whole thing up and make a new one. The schedule is constantly changing.”

One thing that’s set in stone is a Monday through Friday work week. Other than that, things are largely up in the air. Kahl said extras would receive a call for an availability check one to three days before shooting, and a confirmation the night before, with a schedule, location and wardrobe guidelines.

“The wardrobe will be easy, it will be casual clothing, you’ll be townsfolk walking around, dressed like you are today,” said Greg Bull, another casting director with the company. “They’ll give you a color palette, and tell you what colors to avoid.”

Extras shouldn’t wear loud colors or patterns in an attempt to stick out in the film scene nor should they do anything drastic with their hair, said Kahl. It will only result in a trip to the hair and makeup department, where they’ll be more subtly styled.

“This is supposed to be Indiana, not New York City,” said Kahl, revealing one little tidbit about the film.

Extras who reveal anything about the film can expect a one-way ticket off the set, he said.

“Films have whole departments that scour social media sites,” he said, and if they find photos from the set, blogs about the shoot or any details being described by an extra, it’s the end of that person’s film career. The same goes for those that are seen snapping photos on set or ruining a scene with their ringing phones.

Likewise if they bother the actors or director.

“Most people in the film industry are really nice and it’s not that they’re better than you or too good to talk to you, it’s because they’re busy working,” said Kahl. “They’re trying to get 20 hours of work into a 12-hour day.

Those who do follow the rules will receive a paycheck.

“Nobody’s going to retire off of this,” warned Bull. “It pays about $8 per hour; you might earn $100 in a day (for nonunion extras).”

The real payoff is the experience, Bull and Kahl agreed. Extras will get to talk about the time they almost met so-and-so or point to themselves in a scene as they make friends watch the DVD frame-by-frame.

Some of them might see their faces, some might see their cars, with or without themselves at the wheel.

“We may have some of you driving,” said Bull. The film, he said, would include aerial shots of the village from helicopter, and they’ll need some cars from the 1980s through 2000 parked or being driven.

Though they won’t get top billing on the film, each extra is important, said Kahl.

“If you don’t show up, it’s a big deal,” he said. “You know how cell service is up here; it’s hard to try to replace someone at 7 a.m.”

“Extras are not arbitrary,” he continued. “They’re very specific in what they want, and the number of each age, gender and ethnicity.”

“If you aren’t available when we ask you to be and you let us know, we’re not going to rip up your file,” added Bull.

He and Kahl certainly have plenty of those files to go through now. With the two giving a new group of extras the run-down every 20 minutes or so throughout their six-hour day, there was a steady supply of those eager to be extras.

Local police working crowd control said it was an orderly day, with the line only extending from the Town Hall’s side door, about 100 feet down Williams Street to the corner, and less at times.

Many of those in line were locals, part of the reason the company held a similar casting call in Boston on the same day.

“I’ve done local theater before, but I’ve never been in a movie,” said Dolores Griel of Charlemont. “I tried out to be an extra once, but I didn’t get called in. It was for a fairy tale movie, I thought I would’ve made a great witch!”

Jim Reilly of Northampton has been an extra before, just by being in the right place at the right time.

“I was an extra in ‘Fever Pitch,’” he said. “I was at Fenway Park for a Red Sox game. Afterward, (directors) the Farrely brothers came out and asked if anyone wanted to stick around while they got some crowd shots.”

They also filmed a scene where star Drew Barrymore runs out onto the field while Reilly was there.

“They had actors dressed as ballplayers, it was surreal,” he recalled.

Reilly said he hasn’t been able to pick himself out in that scene from the movie.

“If you listen really closely, though, you can hear me yell ‘Yankees suck!’ along with about 36,000 other people,” he joked.

David Rainville can be reached at:
drainville@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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