Life in film not all that glamorous

By Clyde Davis: Local Columnist

A couple of years ago, numerous Clovis, Portales and surrounding area residents had the opportunity to live in a different world for a while, serving as extras or in other capacities for “Believe In Me.” Since that movie previews in Clovis and Portales on Thursday, the eagle has come home to roost. Area residents will get to see the final results of the part of the project done locally.

Other articles have been written, over the past several weeks, which amply inform readers how to acquire tickets for the showing and the party that accompanies it.

The purpose of this column is to call up some of the lessons learned, at least from my viewpoint, as one of the thousand or so who signed up to be an extra.

First, I suppose, was a conclusion shared with many who were involved: I would not wish to be a movie actor. It is hard work, and not all that glamorous. How many takes does it require to get a sequence right? More than you think. What does everybody else do to pass time, while that scene is being shot? Nothing, they still have to pay attention. Certain aspects reminded me of the Army — you spend a lot of time waiting, but you still have to be focused on what is going on.

Second, where do all of those Hollywood stars find the time to get into the trouble we read of in the tabloids? Hours are long, nights are late, and the late nights are spent filming, not partying. I guess most of the people who get in trouble are not really actors, but “wannabes.” When was the last time you saw Nicole Richie actually doing anything worthwhile before a camera?

Third, the actors, actresses and movie people are much like us, and generall, nice people. The only nasty prima donna I personally encountered was some lady whose job was something like third-string script editor. Jeffrey Donavan, Samantha Mathis and even well-known, long-time bad guy Bruce Dern were not only real people, but warm people.

Fourth, there’s many a slip ’twixt the cup and the lip. Filming, promoting, editing and finalizing are measured in terms of months, even years, not weeks. There is no guarantee; the product has to find a home.

I remember, in the early 1980s, a movie called “China Syndrome” about a massive nuclear meltdown. I was living in western Pennsylvania, and a nuclear incident at Three Mile Island in the central part of the state near Harrisburg, Pa., had just occurred. A large number of people believed the movie had been made in response to the incident. Yep, written, filmed, edited and produced, within a few months. Talk about movie magic.

Fifth, people who do their job right in the movie’s filming have to be detail oriented. Not only did playing the part of an early 1960s basketball referee require me to shave my beard and cut my hair, but I also had to trade in my wire rims for some appropriate Buddy Holly-type glasses.

Finally, it is a lot of fun to do something different, if you only have to do it for a while. The writer George Plimpton built entire best sellers on living out his fantasies.

For example his book “Paper Lion” is about his experiences as a journalist in residence, quarterbacking the Detroit Lions. (The part I recall best is his description of getting hit in a team practice by linebacker Wayne Walker. “Freight train” was the operative word.)

So if life gives you a chance to play a different role for a while, do it. Believe in you. And, of course, go see the movie.