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ATLANTA, GA (July 18, 2006)
—Since the passage of incentives last year, Georgians are becoming used to the tell-tale signs of a major motion picture in production. So when the Warner Bros. production of We are Marshall was in town this summer, the evidence was everywhere, from Matthew McConaughey sightings to blocks of downtown streets filled with tractor trailer trucks packed with rigging. And if you weren't an extra in WAM (as it came to be affectionately called), you certainly knew one or more folks who were. Even Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue got a role as an East Carolina football coach in the film.

After reading some of the scorching messages left by WAM extras on IMDB, we wanted to hear firsthand from people who worked on WAM. Here are some of the stories we got.

Chris Kanakis:
I was a featured extra on WAM. I was a reporter and a photographer on the field for 3 days in a 3-piece wool suit from the 70s. I had a sunburn from the neck up...but I loved every second of it, I met a lot of nice people and made a lot of new friends. I just moved here from Ohio with a BA in Comm. studies from Kent State and it was a great chance to get some experience.




It's a shame there hasn't been more local publicity for We Are Marshall. This is exactly the kind of production the Georgia film community should know about, and take pride in. The movie boasts a true ensemble cast with remarkable depth, a more-than-respectable budget, and a director with a track record of grossing $100+ million at the box office. It's exactly what Georgia has been stumping for with the tax incentive program -- and we got it.

There's something unique about working on a feature, and something different again about one like this. What was immediately impressive was the scale of the production -- certainly the sets for the burning plane and packed football stadiums, but also the level of organization and attention to detail. Nothing is left to chance. Every tiny element has been planned, predicted, checked, logged, and accounted for by somebody. If you ever have doubts that logistics are a fundamental part of the art of filmmaking, take a job on a production like this. It's like watching a self-assembling jigsaw puzzle, or an explosion in reverse.

I don't know what I expected the vibe to be like on a Hollywood movie set. It wasn't all that intimidating, although an atmosphere of intensity and the specter of huge outlays of money did hover over us. Reassuringly, the basics of filmmaking remain the same. There was no attempt to disguise this as some magic unattainable by lesser mortals. Also, kudos to director McG for running a collaborative and creative set, and to the cast and crew for their professionalism and good humor.

More of a surprise was the concern with security. Aside from the usual suspects (stalkers and out of control fans), it's odd to think how many people stand to make a buck or a career from the misfortunes of a major production. In this digital age, there is considerable paranoia over the unauthorized public release of images, scenes or even the entire movie. The concern is not simply over the film being seen for free. It's that someone may deliberately capitalize on embarrassing the production and destroy the movie's box office potential before it gets off the ground.

Perhaps my biggest "take away" from the experience is this: filmmaking is never simple. More money means you can make things more complicated. You get more gadgets; you need more experts. You get more locations; you need more people. And, at any level, you're always trying to coax the absolute maximum out of every moment, every minute, and every dollar.

In the end, I don't feel like Hollywood is "the enemy." I have a better sense now of what we're aiming for in being "independent," and more of an appreciation of it. Yet, we put ourselves at a disadvantage if we try to reinvent the wheel just to spite the establishment. The politics of their process don't appeal to me, but the basic mechanics are sound -- and just might turn out some spectacular results.

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