Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A Prairie Home Companion Movie

Last summer I decided to spend two of my precious "personal days" at work to act as an extra in The Prairie Home Companion movie that was being filmed in St. Paul. Witnessing a movie being filmed was very appealing to me. On my first day, a costume designer approved one of the three items of clothing I had brought with me (per the directions I was given over the phone). She walked around the room of about 300+ extras and critiqued everyone's selections. When she got to me, she said, "Please wear this (a turquois cardigan sweater with matching t-shirt). It seems everyone else has brought drab-colored clothing."

Next they selected 100 of us to go across the street to begin filling the Fitzgerald Theater. Once inside the door, an assistant directed us as to where to sit. I was seated on the first floor, about 1/3 of the way from the stage, in the aisle seat. After everyone was in place, we were instructed to be absolutely silent. Then we began hearing the assistant director give instructions to Garrison Keillor, who was the first star being filmed that afternoon. It wasn't long before we heard, "Quiet everyone! Quiet, please! Action!" A few folks in the audience had little activities they were instructed to do - like eat popcorn, take a drink from their soft drink cup, pretend to be sleeping. Two people right in front of my seat were ushered in after the filming began. This scene took about 5 "takes," and the camera was on them while they were coming down the aisle, so it is possible that I may be visible in the film at that point.

The second day, I was instructed to wear the same clothing but was seated 2 rows from the stage in the center. The action being filmed was behind the audience with the camera shooting over us, so I'm not sure if I will be visible in that scene or not. I mention this so that if you happen to go to see the film once it is released (June 9), you may notice me in the audience. It was such a fun experience. The stars that I saw were Virginia Madsen, Kevin Kline, John C. Reilly, Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones, the director, Robert Altman, and of course, Garrison Keillor.

Tonight many of these stars are going to be in St. Paul, riding in horse-drawn carriages, riding from Rice Park to the Fitzgerald Theater to view the premiere which opens today. You may ask, "Donna, are you going to attend?" Actually, no. I think tickets were going for lots of cash tonight, plus I'm expected to show up for the weekly choir rehearsal at church. But I do plan on seeing the movie! In fact, I'm looking forward to it.

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