By Laura Beth Gebhardt
Digressing from being a college student studying in the library to a high school student playing in a school yard during the 1960s seems like an impossible transition. Yet, this journey back in time became a realistic opportunity for some UMHB students.
It was the involvement with the upcoming HBO film, tentatively titled Temple Grandin, that made the experience possible.
Professor of performance studies at the university, Dr. Diane Howard, had previously been a part of the film, and was impressed by it.
“This was the most redemptive, substantive, large production, with top stars that I have seen produced in Texas,” she said.
While involved with the film, Howard discovered that the casting director, Kira Burns, was searching for a core group of students to be the high school classmates of the main character, Temple Grandin, who is played by Claire Danes. She had already searched three universities, but had not found students who had the specific look the director wanted. Howard eagerly told Burns about the students of UMHB.
“She came the next day, and fell in love with our students,” Howard said. “They were just what she had been looking for. They were wholesome, positive, cooperative students who had the right looks for the scenes.”
After talking to 150 people at UMHB, Burns chose 25 to appear in the film. The majority who accepted spent four days on the set and had the opportunity to experience the movie-making process.
Being a part of the production not only brought noteworthy recognition to the students involved, but to the communication and media studies program and university as a whole.
“This put us on the map of major movies and in the networks of major movie companies,” Howard said. “They know us now and will call us again. This has been a wonderful opportunity for us to be salt and light in the movie industry.”
The paid students involved were treated like little stars. They got their makeup and hair done every morning, had catered meals for both breakfast and lunch and had their own wardrobe. However, being an extra on a film is not always as glamorous as it may seem.
They were in small scenes with the stars who had more face time on camera than extras usually do.
“The experience was ten times better than I thought it would be,” sophomore Nathan Jenkins said. “I had been warned that the position, an extra, that is, was not as extraordinary as Hollywood might want you to think, but the majority of the cast were very nice, and the crew was extremely personable.”
The movie is set during the ’50s and ’60s, which allowed the students to get a taste of what it was like to live during that time, especially in the area of fashion.
Junior history major Teaven Barnum said, “I loved the costumes because everybody looked ridiculous.”
The people who chose to be a part of the film had different reasons for participating.
“I did this movie because I knew it would be a really great experience for me since I am majoring in performance studies,” freshman Rachel Jeske said. “I also figured that it would help me branch out and meet a lot of people in the film business.”
The students were extremely grateful and overall had good experiences.
“Filming this movie was awesome. I loved it so much, and I feel so blessed that I got to be a part of it,” Jeske said. “I’m so grateful that God presented me with this opportunity. It was a blast!”