Bright Lights in the Big Easy

New Orleans has long been a favorite setting for big name producers and newcomers hoping to make theirs big.  The city, the historic French Quarter as well as the surrounding bayou country has so much to offer a production company it is no wonder that some thirty odd movies are scheduled to be filmed here.

 It was awesome to happen on to the filming of the Canal Street car crash scene in the John Cena movie Twelve Rounds during one NOLA visit.  Thanks to a really cool production assistant, a group of us including my nieces and nephews were thrilled to be able to watch up close and personal.

While that was exciting it was even more so when I got an opportunity to actually participate in the new Kate Hudson movie, Earthbound, being filmed in and around the Crescent City.  It is a romantic comedy which includes other names like Gael Garcia Bernal, Alan Dale, Whoopi Goldberg, Kathy Bates and Treat Williams.  In the film Kate has cancer (she had to lose twenty pounds for the role) Whoopi is God, and Gael is the young doctor that Kate falls for. There is no word yet on when the Nicole Kassell directed flick will hit the theater.

Most young girls at some point entertain thoughts of being in a movie.  My three year old granddaughter wants to be a “moo-moo tar” herself!  I have to admit I was no different, but I had put that behind me a long time ago, probably about the same time I put up my Barbie dolls.  So when a friend who was involved in the project suggested that since I was always in New Orleans anyway I should get involved too. I thought “what the heck”,   never really believing it would happen.

What a surprise when I was contacted the same day to take part as an extra (called “background” in the biz) in a Gala Fund Raiser scene of New Orleans supposedly wealthiest patrons being shot at Oak Alley Plantation.  Oak Alley Plantation, a historic property located on the Mississippi River in Vacherie, Louisiana, is a National Historic Landmark.  For a history lover like me this was going to be way cool, but due to the weather the scene was moved at the last minute. We actually filmed the scene at Gallier Hall on St. Charles Avenue.  

The whole behind the scenes experience from wardrobe and make-up to Star orbit etiquette was a definite eye opener for me.  I will never look at movies or some “Stars” in the same way again. About the only familiar terminology to me was “first team” and “second team”.  I knew what it meant in basketball and sure enough it is the same in movies.  First team is the actual Stars and Second team is the Stand-ins (people who resemble the stars). 

It will be really interesting to see the finished product and what actually makes it into the film. I think I have a fairly good shot since I was included in most of the shooting that day.  There is nothing like having the “clap board” snapped in front of your face. “Quiet on the set, Rolling, Sound, Background”  – and that was the cue for us extras to start our little pantomime party.

It was a hoot!  So much for my illusions of being transformed into a beautiful glamour goddess, the joke was on me.  Look for really big hair!  (because I’m supposedly really rich!  Who knew big hair and big money were synonymous?!)  It took a little while to get used people coming up and messing with my hair and brushing stuff on my face all day.  Overall I met some really great people and heard some very entertaining stories from the veteran extras about past “background” roles. 

It was a fun new experience but an eighteen hour day in heels, with make-up caked on my face and a teased up ball of hair on my head is not my idea of the glamorous life.  Please don’t misunderstand though, even with the minor disillusionment, aching feet and contacts melted on my eyeballs (the lights are really hot and bright) I would gladly answer the call “background” again!

By Sharon Denise Talbot