Martin: Guess what. I’m in a movie.
About a year ago, I woke up on a particular Monday morning not knowing what to expect. It wasn’t going to be a normal start to the workweek, full of phone calls, interviews, checking emails — I was getting ready to head to the set of a movie.
Yes, an actual movie.
I was invited to the set in Marmarth, a tiny Western town about 30 miles west of Bowman, N.D., where my former office was located, where crews were filming “Valley of Bones,” the film being shot around Bowman County. I would be an extra.
I got a text from the film’s production assistant a few days earlier explaining what kind of wardrobe they were looking for me to wear. A cowboy hat. Didn’t have one. Cowboy boots. I didn’t have any. Flannel shirt. Nope.
Included in the text was the time and location of the shoot. I scrolled further down in the text and found a disclaimer: There will be nudity on set.
Um… Okay? I assumed the family-friendly atmosphere of the good ol’ Pastime Steakhouse was being transformed into a gritty strip club.
I took a big gulp.
I ran to my closet and picked out a random outfit: a maroon button-down shirt and a pair of jeans with a light wash. Nothing fancy. I stretched on an old pair of thick, black biker boots to provide a little more North Dakota flair.
I was ready to make my film debut.
I arrived in front of the Pastime to find the first of the other extras that would join me for the day. A friend of mine greeted me with a smile and some kind words. I noticed she looked very much the part I felt they were seeking: a flannel shirt, bandana around her neck, work boots. She looked as if she had just stepped off the ranch. Two more people strolled up just a few moments later, clad in flannel and wearing boots. Then came another, donning a big, black cowboy hat.
I felt out of place, but nevertheless continued up to the set.
The first thing I noticed was the amount of tension on set. Not necessarily a bad tension, but that everybody had a job and was working to get it done.
There wasn’t not much time for idle chitchat, unless of course you were an extra sitting around waiting for your chance to be on set, as I was for hours.
People you’ve never seen in your life brush pass you with little less than a nod of greeting. They’re either heading to the craft service table or catering to the crews’ need for piping hot coffee. Suddenly a production assistant ran in and snatched up two extras for a scene in front of the Pastime. My fellow extra-hopefuls sighed, but got to sit back and (sort of) watch the action.
The film’s lead actress, Autumn Reeser, was getting her hair and makeup done while she talked about her son, Finneus, with a fellow actress. I sat there quietly. While they were shooting outside in a sequence that used an old Bronco, we watched as the action unfolded. Inside, they were busy building the set and ensuring lighting and sound was proper. There were some problems we overheard regarding wind in a character’s microphone. That sent some of the sound guys into a tizzy.
Autumn’s co-star, Rhys Coiro, came in and started talking to us all. To the untrained eye, he seemed to be just an average North Dakotan, wearing clothes similar to those of a worker in the oil field.
I admit that I didn’t quite recognize his name at first. So, as an avid movie buff would do, I pulled out my phone, opened the IMDb (Internet Movie Database) app and searched his name. “Graceland.” Eh. “Entourage.” No, thanks. Wait—“Hostages.” (He was in a lot more, too.)
I was ecstatic when I discovered this relatively plain looking guy standing in front of me was one of the main character’s in one of my favorite TV shows. Acting composed, not trying to become star stuck, I casually asked if we could snag a pic with him. He kindly obliged.
A while later, during lunch, I hung out my car’s window and yelled to him, “Rhys, I loved you on ‘Hostages’! Why did it get canceled?” My husband, Nate, who also joined me on set, looked embarrassed.
“Because ‘The Black List’ was getting all the viewers,” he yelled back.
He gave me a thumbs-up.
Anyway, all us extras eventually got a reprieve. We were called out into the main part of the Pastime to be part of the indoor scene they were filming. Little did we know the hours of shooting multiple angles and different takes would result in about a five-minute scene, an exchange between Anna (Reeser) and actor Steven Molony’s character, McCoy, which would establish Anna’s quest to uncovering a massive T-Rex fossil in the Badlands. But it wasn’t looking too amicable — McCoy is undoubtedly up to no good.
So there we were in the middle of the scene, arranged by the production assistants to pose as inebriated patrons of the strip club (a.k.a. Pastime). The “bartender” hands me a soda-filled bottle of beer; I fake puffing on an unlit cigarette. My back faces the camera. A friend of mine and a fellow extra sits next to me at the bar, toiling around in a half-empty dish of bar nuts. Her father comes through the front door, walks toward the camera, slaps me on the back and nods to Stephi. Poor Nate was never used as an extra, but he was happy because he got to kick back and watch the cameras as the scene unfolded — over and over again for several hours.
It was our friend, Annette, who had quite the awkward part as an extra, in my opinion.
Remember how the PA said there would be nudity? Well, once an actress’s top came off and she started dancing on a pole in the corner, it confirmed my suspicions that the set was to be a strip club. But everyone was respectful.
When the scene wrapped, my moment of stardom was over.
While there’s no guarantee that the filmmakers will even use any of that in the actual edited version of the movie, at least I can say I got to be part of a movie.
Er, well at least my back was.
“Valley of the Bones” debuted in theaters about two weeks ago, after a lengthy stay on the cutting room floor. It was released only at AMC Theaters. If you want to go check it out — surely because I’m in it — you can head over to Boulder sometime in the next couple weeks or when it randomly lands on Netflix.
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