Locals get a taste of Hollywood magic as extras
NATCHEZ — When the James Brown biopic “Get On Up” premiers next year, Analisa Therrien is going to be watching for a familiar profile — her own.
“I keep telling my friends, ‘I will be silhouette No. 4,’” she said.
Like dozens of other locals, Therrien was cast as an extra in the Tate Taylor-directed retrospective on the life of the godfather of soul starring Chadwick Boseman, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer that started filming in Natchez earlier this month.
In one recent day of shooting, Therrien — who had submitted her name for casting when several of her friends said they were going to do so — joined in with dozens of other locals for the filming of a country club scene at Dunleith Historic Inn.
“This thing was massive,” she said. “The shoot just involved so many different parts and people divided into different groups, and they were dealing with different age groups.
“It is really hard work. My hat is off to them, because I don’t know how they do it on a day-to-day basis.”
One of those who was on set with Therrien, but doesn’t do it on a day-to-day basis, was Trevor Brown, the deputy director of the Historic Natchez Foundation. He had signed up for the casting call by email, and when he got the call, he reported for a costume fitting.
When he arrived to be fitted, Brown said he was impressed by the expansive collection of costumes the production had on hand.
“It was like the world’s best thrift shop,” he said. “They had all the coolest clothes from the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s.”
The costuming process also impressed Cathedral School teacher-by-day, movie-extra-by-night Jennifer Haile.
“We came in, and they measured us, and then we waited until they called us back again,” Haile said. “One of the stylists takes one look at you, looks at your measurements and pulls out a dress. She pulled out two dresses and said, ‘If this one doesn’t work, we will go with this one.’ It was very fast.”
Next was hair and makeup.
“I loved sitting around, seeing everybody sitting around getting their hair and makeup done, and talking to the hair and makeup artists,” Haile said. “People talk to hairdressers, and you know how Natchezians can be anyway — we want to know where you are from and what you do.”
About a week after costume fitting was the filming. For Therrien, the first day started at approximately noon and ended at 1:15 a.m. the next morning. The second day ran until approximately 2:15 a.m.
“It wasn’t all working,” she said. “You do a take, and then they reset the take, they regroup and take a look at what they just shot, and they decide, ‘We are going to try it this way or that way.’
“The whole shoot was so long, I had no idea where the cameras were. There was so much going on, all these lights, you see a crane here and a track there, but if I had seen a camera coming right at me, I would be like a deer in headlights.”
It was cold the day of shooting — Therrien said temperatures dipped into the 20s at the set — and while the extras were able to go inside between takes, the crews kept right on working.
But even when the extras weren’t needed, they were getting to make new friends with other cast and crew alike, Haile said, and even got to learn a little about how movies are made.
“On the second night of filming, we had a little bit of downtime and we got to stand on the balcony of Dunleith and watch from behind,” she said. “We got to see what they were seeing on the monitors. There was a ton of equipment, lots of cameras and people who were all over the place doing different things.”
The atmosphere onset was upbeat and positive, and the stereotypical Hollywood temperament never manifested itself, Therrien said.
“You have this image of Hollywood types and big egos, but they were very nice and personable, and they treated us very well and thanked us constantly,” she said.
Brown said he was not only in the country club scene, but also appeared in another scene in which he would likely be recognizable in the final cut of the film.
Some of the movie’s stars were in the second scene in which Brown appeared, and though Brown said he wasn’t able to interact with them due to the level of concentration it required on their part, it was worth being there.
“It was really amazing to watch those folks work, to see how truly professional they are when it comes to their craft,” he said.
And although he was in the country club scene, Brown said he’s not holding his breath that his appearance there will make it into the final cut of the film.
“I was positioned so far away from where all that was taking place, there is basically a .001 percent chance that I will be in the movie from that scene,” he said.
“If I am, I will be the guy kind of moving in the far, far, far background.”
After working with the film crew, Brown said he’s got a new take on how movies are made.
“To know two days of work went into what will probably be 30 seconds of film gives a lot of perspective,” he said.
Brown, Haile and Therrien all agreed they would take the opportunity to appear in another film if given the chance.
“It was something I would have never ever done if my friends had not said ‘Come on, let’s do it,’” Therrien said. “I recommend it as one of those things you put in your bucket list.”