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    Casting calls were held Thursday at Churchill Downs for extras in Walt Disney Picture's "Secretariat" for filming scheduled to begin in late September and last for two weeks, according to Business First of Louisville.

    And there is a second round of auditions 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Griffin Gate Marriott Resort (1800 Newton Pike) in Lexington.

    But if you auditioned and get a part, don't take it.

    And if you are planning on driving east to Lexington for tomorrow's casting call, don't go.

    A few years ago I was an extra in "National Treasure: Book of Secrets," also by Walt Disney Pictures. I expected it to be miserable, but figured it'd make for good fodder. I underestimated just how miserable being an extra is though: it was the worst movie experience I've had since watching "Weekend at Bernie's."

    Glamour at the costume fitting

    The costume fitting took place a few weeks before the shoot. My prole, a photographer at the president's birthday party, required a tuxedo.

    Between being in wedding parties and going to proms, it probably was the 10th time I'd been to a tuxedo rental shop. And with a four-hour wait, it was my longest such experience.

    I made about $15 and there was nothing glamorous about my afternoon, save having a little old Turkish man tug on my trousers.

    Wanting to shoot myself at the shoot

    The shoot itself was about as interesting as a second-grade class photo shoot, only longer and colder. After getting corralled onto a bus and driven to Mount Vernon, I

    • stood around
    • sat around
    • walked around in the background, way off camera for a few seconds

    (Parts 1 and 2 featured more prominently in my 13-hour late afternoon, evening, and early morning than did part 3.)

    My celeb sightings:

    1. Ed Harris walked by me and there was a little controversy over whether or not he grabbed my cakes. I say he did; he, if you asked him, would most likely wonder what the heck you were talking about.
    2. Sen. John Kerry chatted with the director.
    3. Nicholas Cage stormed to and from his scenes.
    4. A fellow extra had really gone out of her way to look like Sarah Jessica Parker.

    I didn't bother going back for day two of the shoot. I figured I'd had my film experience and the possibility of brief screen time and getting my $75 check didn't merit another sleepless cold night in rented clothes.

    One reason to audition: The other extras will boost your self-esteem

    The vibe at the shoot was less Hollywood glamour and more Baltimore desperation. There's a permanent nomadic underclass of extras that travel the East Coast in the hopes of a second of screen time.

    Some of these grunts were staying in hotels, spending more on their budget accommodation than Disney was paying them. Others were blowing their meager check on gas.

    One particularly desperate woman planned to drive back to New Jersey after the first day of the shoot to check on a friend's cat, and then drive right back for the second day.

    A typical conversation between these types:
    "Didn't I meet you at 'John Adams?'"
    "Did you make it on screen?"
    "No, my scene got cut. How about you?"
    "Yes! You can see the top of my head in one of the overhead shots."
    "Fantastic! That'll be great on your resume."

    And then there were the extras who were members of the actor's guild: at some point in their lives, these folks had a line in a movie, which entitles them to better pay, a separate food tent, an air of accomplishment and looks of envy from the desperate masses.

    For more information: Here's another activity you should avoid: reading Velocity.

    (Photo: Flickr/Sörn)

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