Life as a Hollywood extra, in Kentucky

Former NKU student Jamie Buckner got a chance to fulfill a dream this past week by participating in the making of a Hollywood movie.

It all began several weeks ago when a casting call went out all over the Tri-state area requesting extras for the movie “Seabiscuit,” a true story about a famed racehorse who overcame a handicap to be named the 1938 Horse of the Year.

The movie is based on the best selling book “Seabiscuit: An American Legend,” by Laura Hillenbrand. The film version stars Toby Maguire, of Spiderman fame.

Buckner, who is a recent graduate of NKU, hopes to become a film director, so when the opportunity presented itself he eagerly took it.

Buckner answered the casting call, held at the Millennium hotel in downtown Cincinnati, along with hundreds of others. “I was curious to find out what the process was like. I did not expect anything to happen,” he said.

Everyone who showed up was escorted into a room for a presentation. The presentation was a set up, though. As the speaker talked, he surveyed the crowd’s facial expressions and reactions to what he was saying.

“After the presentation, everyone got up in one group. The speaker looked over the crowd again and people began to hand him photos. If you did not have a picture, or he did not like the one that was given, a new shot was taken with a Polaroid camera,” Buckner said. “Then they would pin a card to the picture. If they liked your look they picked you. It was an odd process, which is exactly what I wanted to see.”

As Buckner was leaving, he was handed papers explaining the ins and outs of being an extra. The papers outlined what was expected of him and what he should expect from the production.

“All the information they gave us, I just threw it away. I thought ‘I’m not an actor what do I need this for.’ I did not expect to be called at all.” Buckner said.

Apparently, the casting crew liked Buckner’s’ look because he received a call a few months later.

“When they called me and told me I had been selected I couldn’t move or speak.” Buckner said.

On Nov. 13, Buckner headed for Keenland racetrack in Lexington.

The scenes were only supposed to last three days, but he was there for seven days, standing around in the freezing cold, waiting for the next scene to be shot.

“This picture is probably a 90 to 100 million dollar production, but you would not believe how many things are rigged,” Buckner said.

“In one scene we were supposed to be looking at Seabiscuit racing, which was actually a paper plate, on a stick, with a big blue X on it. War Admiral [another horse] was a hobbyhorse running along side the plate. But, when the movie comes out the scene will show the spectators watching the race,” Buckner said.

“Another movie trick was used to enhance the size of the crowd. They imported blow-up dolls, put masks and T-shirts on them to represent hundreds of people in the grandstands, it creates the illusion of a lot of people in the grandstands,” he added.

Buckner’s appetite for knowledge about the industry increased as the days passed. The whole experience turned into a lesson for him.

“What I really wanted to see was how it all came together, how people were being strategically placed in the background, how principle actors doing things a different way every single take, how much time it took to move a camera five feet over and two feet up. It literally took two hours to adjust the lighting, and sound equipment,” Buckner said.

Unfortunately, Buckner did not get the chance to meet Toby Maguire, but the experience has led Buckner to respect the movie making industry and the people involved. It has also cemented his desire to be a film director.

When asked if he would do it over again he responded with an enthusiastic ‘yes.