News Column

Locals getting a different perspective on movie-making as extras in "Big Stone Gap"

November 3, 2013


Nov. 03--Tiffany Cody's first day on a movie set wasn't as glamorous as she expected.

In fact, it was more than a little dusty. She and fellow Mountain Empire Community College student Austin Swiney spent the first few days of their internship on the set of "Big Stone Gap" cleaning out the old Mutual Pharmacy to set the scene for filming.

The Mutual, in Big Stone, which recently closed, was featured prominently in the novel "Big Stone Gap" by Adriana Trigiani, who worked for a decade to bring the filming of the novel to her hometown.

"I have a different perspective of movie-making now," said Cody, 22, of Jonesville, Va. "It's not as glamorous as people think. ... I didn't realize there was that much work that went into making a movie."

She said she helped clean out the store, which accumulated some grime during the months it sat vacant, and helped set up 1970s-era items in the store for the shoot.

"It's a very neat business," said Swiney, 18, of Norton, Va. "Everything is very fast-paced, we're working around the clock to get these things set up."

Several local people have signed on to be extras and Trigiani issued a call for people with the right era of car to help out, too. The set has been closed to media since filming began about two weeks ago.

The choir at the University of Virginia's College at Wise, in nearby Wise, Va., has been recruited to help record some of the soundtrack. Members of the choir went to the shoot to be filmed Wednesday night, but were not used as extras. Still, said Ryan Blevins, 20, a music major from Chilhowie, Va., it's exciting to be involved.

"I'm honored," he said. "It's one of those things that down the road you can tell your children or relatives. It's a cool opportunity and something I can put on my resume some day."

He said the choir has so far recorded a rough cut that will be used to help the actors when filming, and then will later record in a studio for the film's soundtrack.

Some of the students and residents of Wise County have spotted and met some of the film's stars, which include Patrick Wilson, Jenna Elfman, Whoopi Goldberg and Ashley Judd.

Blevins met Wilson while the choir students waited to see if they were going to be filmed for the movie.

"He's the nicest man," Blevins said. "He let everyone who wanted take a picture."

Swiney said he met Elfman, who has been probably the most-photographed star throughout town. She also posts daily photos from the set.

"She's very sweet," Swiney said. "She seems like a nice person, and funny, too."

All three students said they believe the movie has been a boost for the local area.

"It's a really good atmosphere," Cody said of working in Big Stone. "Just to be surrounded by all this ... it's a pretty neat experience, and I'm happy to be a part of it. It's an atmosphere of change. You can see it in town as well."


(c)2013 the Bristol Herald Courier (Bristol, Va.)

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