Beau J Genot writes:
Barnard Hughes died last week. I had the chance to meet him on the very first movie I ever worked on. I was in college when my dad told me about an 800 number set up by the Illinois Film Commission that cast extras in movies shooting in Chicago. He mentioned it to me because I had spent the previous Saturday standing in line for five hours in the futile hope of being included in Light Of Day, a film Michael J. Fox was shooting in Chicago, even though it was set in Ohio. I had a huge crush on him, but I didn’t realize it at the time.
So I got hooked up with a film originally called In This Fallen City, but released as Night of Courage. (You can’t blame them for changing the title.) In my first scene, I was part of the audience at a school play. It was cool. It was my first movie. I didn’t mind that we were being treated like cattle. It was my first movie. I wasn’t even being paid. It didn’t matter. It was my first movie.
I got lucky. Since I was the same build as one of the actors, Tom Hodges, I was asked to be his stand-in. I didn’t know it at the time but this meant that I was going to get paid; the other stand-in told me at the end of the day. I was also asked back the next day. This went on for three days before the production department found out. I was not asked back for a fourth day.
Day three was particularly interesting. We were shooting in Chicago. We were not in a nice neighborhood. As I remember it, we were within sight of the Cabrini-Green housing project. I believe during the course of the day it rained, it snowed, and the sun came out. I still wonder how they made it all match. Anyway, I was having lunch with the cast and crew – as a stand-in, you’re treated much better than an extra – and we were being regaled by Mr Hughes’ stories of Hollywood’s olden days. It was fascinating.
When there was a day or a weekend we had off, I took some of the cash I had been paid (yes, we were paid in cash) and went to see a movie. The movie was Lucas. It starred one of the Corys. It also starred Tom Hodges. It was kind of cool to see the guy you were being paid to stand-in for up on screen. It gave some legitimacy to what I was doing.
I didn’t work as an extra on another movie until I moved to LA. And did only one or two movies before I realized I actually didn’t like being treated like cattle.
Beau J Genot is a post-production supervisor / associate producer who has since worked on the films Mysterious Skin, An Inconvenient Truth, Party Monster, and Hard Candy, among others.