Regular people — that would be most of us — see photos of the famous people on a movie set and wonder what it’s really like.
Well, now Jason Rikard — this story’s token regular person — knows. He and wife Shannon Rikard, who’s also an Archery 360 contributing editor, answered a casting call for “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I” extras last fall. The casting agency was looking for tall, thin people for District 13. Male extras would be required to get their hair cut, which was no threat to Jason since he has no hair anyway.
In the end, Jason made the cut, while Shannon did not. So off he went to spend a couple nights in a Motel 6, south of Atlanta, Ga., where the movie was filmed. This is the story of that one person that matters. And his wife.
Interested in the back story? Here’s what Jason had to say about being an extra on the set of “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.”
A360: So you applied to be an extra, through a casting agency, you got chosen. Then what?
Jason Rikard: I had confirmed with a lady at the casting agency that I could be in the movie. I made sure I could take off work. The casting agent described what I’d be doing; the hours, conditions, the pay: a whopping $60 a day.I talked to her on a Tuesday and she said I’d have to be fitted the following Thursday. She said the costume was “quite ornate,” but that was all she said.
A360: Tell us about the fitting.
JR: There were about a half-dozen extras there filling out paperwork. I partially filled out my paperwork before I had to be measured. Then a casting agent handed me an ID card before I was directed through 50 yards of clothing racks to the costume coordinator. There was a large table for cutting and sewing fabric; two men and two women. One lady was marking a costume for alterations. One guy introduced himself and asked me to step into the dressing room, while he went to get my costume. The costume guy measured my arms and noted that my left arm was ¼-inch longer than my right arm. That’s the first I’d heard of that. He said it’s common, so that was good.
A360: And the costume?
JR: He came back with a drab gray pair of coveralls. At first glance, they seemed like coveralls you could get anywhere. But after looking at them, they were more tailored than regular ones. The shoes were high-topped sneakers (drab gray) like the Chucks I was wearing when I showed up. They had a dark gray rubber toe and a rubber heel pad that was spattered across the back to make the shoes look aged.
A360: So what was it like once you were actually on set?
JR: The first day started at 4:30 a.m. where more than 100extras loaded on a bus. There were several buses and about 400 extras total. They drove us to Newnan, south of Atlanta, to an old steel mill. There was a huge, open warehouse that looked like it was built in the 1950s. It had busted-out windows and industrial equipment. When we got there, people were yelling at us to turn off our cell phones and turn them in. I had to wait in line to drop off my phone and get a number to pick it up.
A360: I know you were supposed to be from District 13, but were you a regular citizen, worker or something even more nondescript?
JR: When I got there, I found out I was military personnel. They’d added a patch to my costume that indicated rank. Some of the taller guys had a black stripe on their patch. My ranking patch was right at the sternum/upper chest and was a dark gray. There were a few people who were in their 50s who had double stripes, so it seemed to indicate their military status. The citizens had fake tattoos that ran from the elbow to the wrist, indicating their daily schedules like in the book.
A360: So the big question, did you see Jennifer Lawrence?
JR: I did! We took a break and I bumped into her. I actually touched her butt by accident. It was more of a brushing of the butt than a touching of the butt. Everyone is wearing the same costumes, so it’s impossible to tell who is who. She was chatting with the director. Everyone had braided hair or military-style haircuts but she had really long, dark hair.
A360: Any other celeb interaction or sightings?
JR: I was in the scene where President Coin announces Katniss as the Mockingjay. They had a stand-in for Julianne Moore, while they were lining us all up. Then Julianne Moore came in and read her lines. She wanted to see if the microphone was on so she made a quiet “Shhh” noise but it was much louder than she expected and she shushed everyone really loudly. It surprised her and she laughed. We took a break and then they moved me up toward the top where I had a great view of what was going on. Then they brought Jennifer Lawrence in again, Sam Claflin (Finnick) and Woody Harrelson (Haymitch). Finnick was wearing his hospital gown. They had 30 or 40 other people dressed up as hospital workers.
A360: What about during breaks or lunch or anything, do you guys get to hangout with the actors at all?
No, the extras had their snack and lunch area and the principal actors had a separate area. But Philip Seymour Hoffman would come over during lunch, smoke and chat it up with the extras.He was the only principal actor who did. He seemed like a really relaxed, regular guy.
A360: Was the celebs’ snack area better than the lowly extras’ area?
Well, the coffee we had wasn’t so good and the actors had better snacks and a Keurig with good coffee. I ended up slipping over with some other extras to use the Keurig once but, after that, they roped off that snack area and told the extras to stay away.
A360: What about the mechanics, the actual work of shooting a scene?
JR: We spent the whole day shooting two scenes. That was maybe a minute or two worth of footage once it’s edited. In one scene, my job was to look like I was hurrying somewhere, like I was cutting through people in a busy subway station. I thought they would shoot it and do maybe three takes. They have multiple cameras, so they’d have multiple angles. And then we’d move on. But no, we spent the whole morning doing that one part. They did three or four takes per camera angle. That one part took about five hours and may only last about 30 seconds in the movie.
A360: And the set itself, what was it like beyond the fact that you were at an old warehouse?
JR: The props had crazy detail. The sound stage of District 13 was incredible. It was in the warehouse, but you couldn’t tell it was inside. It was supposed to look like a cement, missile silo. Even standing right next to it and touching it, I could hardly tell it wasn’t real. It was wood and plaster. Then, they had light meter boxes like you’d see on a regular home. But on the tag — instead of it saying “Property of whatever electric company,” it said “Produced in District 5.” Crazy detail.
One of the scenes Jason appears in made it into movie. We know this because he’s already appeared in the second movie trailer. You can look for him, but you probably won’t see him. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay –Part 1 opens Friday, November 21.