My Experience as an Extra in “Charlie” Film Project

By Doris Salard Whatley

When my friend Corey Poole put out a call on Facebook for film extras a few weeks ago I immediately messaged her that acting in a movie was on my bucket list. I still have fond memories from of playing the starring role in a production of “The Grinch” in elementary school. After, a lady asked my mother if I was a young actress who’d flown in to play the part!

The movie project, titled “Charlie,” was filmed in Natchitoches and will be entered into the Louisiana Film Prize Competition before the July 10 deadline. An announcement will be made Aug. 10 of the final 20 films that will compete for the Louisiana Film Prize. Each of these films will receive a $500 award. A Film Festival will be held on Oct. 3-7 to select the overall winning film, which receives a $50,000 prize. The winning film is chosen by a panel of industry judges and votes from audience members at the festival.

Me and this movie were meant to be. They wanted extras in Renn Faire outfits. I own a pirate costume that I wore to last year’s Louisiana Renaissance Festival!

On Friday evening I was excited to be in my first scene, which was shot at Dark Woods Haunted Attraction. Imagine my disappointment when we got rained out! But it was short-lived. I got to be in the background of the next scene in the Best Western lobby.

This is when I first learned that there’s a lot of waiting in the film industry. The director may change how they want to shoot a scene and whether they want extras in the background. I didn’t mind because it gave me an opportunity to get to know the other extras.

I met the cast and crew at Beau Jardin on Saturday morning. This lasted a few hours, as each scene is shot from different distances and angles. We then walked up to Front Street to film at the Farmers Market. Natchitoches native Jaydon Poole, son of Corey and Jesse Poole was chosen to play a younger version of the main character. I feel they couldn’t have made a better choice than this wonderfully free-spirited 7-year-old! I thoroughly enjoyed watching him exuberantly play his part.

At one point, local Margie Pierson noticed the crew filming in front of her condo and invited everyone in to see her lovely home and garden. I heard a crew member say, “I can’t believe we’re inside someone’s house looking around.” I told them, “That’s just our Natchitoches hospitality…get used to it!”

I also got to visit with Director Kari Kennon and learned a little about her and the inspiration for her short film.

Kari said filming in Natchitoches was wonderful. Steve Horton at LSMSA, and Edd Lee and Valerie Balthazar with the City facilitated a great experience. Most of all, the Dark Woods team comprised of JD Bullard and John Staton made a huge difference in developing the story.

“Charlie” is about a young woman who struggles to commemorate a theatre legend who dies living penniless out of his car. It is a great story for any theatre junky or anyone who likes the bohemian or Renn Fair aesthetic.

Ultimately the story was inspired by Charlie Bethel who died last year. He was an accomplished artist and he taught Kennon what it meant to be an artist and a fully developed, passionate human being.

“When I met him I was in college and I interviewed him at a festival called “Mythic Journeys” in Atlanta,” she said. “I saved the audio files for 12 years before I managed to weave them into my script. He taught me to fight back against depression and take a stand for my life.”

I must admit… I’m a little sad my experience came to an end. I’m thankful for my time in front of the camera, and the opportunity to watch the filming process. Perhaps the most surreal moment was when people asked to take pictures with me and my cohorts. We felt like movie stars!

“Charlie” is a Krafty Productions LLC film, in collaboration with StickyFeet Studios.
Starring: Tom Zembrod, Catherine Christenson, Matthew Harris and John Staton.
Associate Producers: Natali Jones and Corey Poole
Music Composed by Gary Boren
Cinematographer and Editor: Anthony Guitierrez
Written and Directed by Kari Kennon