By Emily Keahey
An inspirational story about the trial and triumph of autistic heroine Temple Grandin is brought to life with UMHB students, faculty and an alumnus.
Beginning in the fall of 2008, the dedicated group contributed days of hard work to the production, although Dr. Diane Howard, who teaches in the Department of Communication and Media Studies, said the overall experience was “very positive. It has always been a lovely and fascinating experience. The crew takes great care with costuming, makeup, and hair. We have always been fed well and given comfortable places to rest during filming breaks.”
It all started when Howard received a call from the film’s casting director. The production was looking for a group of dependable and cooperative students for scenes during Grandin’s high school years.
They had looked at other universities in the area, but had little luck finding the type of students they needed.
The following Saturday the group went to Austin. First, they had their picture taken to see if they could fit the part of 1960s high school students, and then they were interviewed to assess what kind of people they were.
Eventually the production cast 23 UMHB students: Ashley Cook, Brittany Golden, Ariel Sheffield, Ashley Ramirez, Laura Gebhart, Rachel Jeske,
Brianna Edwards, Sarah Hughey, Candice Green, Ashley Biederman, Chelsea Martinez, Jenna Keefe, Teaven Barnum, Jordan Cash, Casey Cox, Travis Mitchell, Zach Raygoza, Jake Tatum, Nathan Jenkins, Garrett Smith, Luke Cielonko, Alex Adcock and Kendall Doles. They also cast UMHB alumnus David Dunlap, and faculty Drs. Diane and Dave Howard.
The average day for the students who decided not to stay in Austin overnight began around 4 a.m. After students drove to the set, they would then go through hair, makeup and costuming to look the part.
As extras, they didn’t participate in all the scenes, so they were given a room for breaks from the set. Filming ended at 5 p.m., and they would then drive back to Belton.
With all that work, the students did get paid. Most of them got around $330, but it depended on how many days they worked.
The students were cast to act during scenes of Grandin’s high school years.
Those parts included them in a literature and shop class, as well as a PE class, where they played ping-pong and various outdoor activities.
Drs. Diane and Dave Howard were cast as parents during scenes of Grandin’s graduation ceremony.
Being an extra in a movie is not only a great addition to a resume but is also a unique opportunity to see an inside view of the movie business.
Junior Christian ministry major Jordan Cash said, “I enjoyed being able to see behind the scenes and learn how they really shoot films.”
Undoubtedly, another perk to being an extra is getting the opportunity to meet famous actors and actresses.
The movie included stars like Claire Danes, who played Grandin, and Julia Ormond and Catherine O’Hara.
Sophomore nursing major Travis Mitchell said, “I actually got to ride in the van with David Strathairn … who was in the Bourne Ultimatum … and so I was kind of star struck.”
The story depicts Grandin’s life beginning in the 1960s, during high school, through the 1970s when she launches her business. It shows the struggles
that many autistic people face, but also the determination she had to succeed.
Grandin, a high functioning autistic, not only finished an undergraduate degree, but also continued schooling and eventually attained a doctorate
in animal science.
She is now 61 years old and teaches at Colorado University. She has made great advancements in livestock handling facilities through her innovative designs. She is also noted for being a leader in autism advocacy.
The premiere of the HBO movie will be Feb. 6 at 7 p.m. The Howards have planned a watch party at their home with the students who participated in