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Posted: September 19, 2010 12:00 a.m.

How to be an extra

Bill Marinella’s been involved in Covington’s filming for nearly 20 years, dating back to his days as an actor in "In the Heat of the Night," the 1980s television series that put Newton County and its courthouse on the map.

Two decades later, Marinella is helping aspiring actors and movie enthusiasts get their start in the industry as extras for "Footloose" and other Atlanta-based shows and movies.

"Covington to me is a very classic, small town…Back then it was a very simple, fun town. It wasn’t like ‘Woo hoo! Let’s go pile it on,’ but it was like the Waltons, going back in time," Marinella said. "People were pleasant, they cared about each other. In California nobody cares about you."

He’s banking on Georgia’s increasing prominence in the film industry, as he founded his ACME casting business in Atlanta, leaving California behind for good.

Marinella said he’s hired hundreds of extras for the "Footloose" courthouse scene in Covington, but will also use them for other projects he’s working on.

"My job is to gather pictures and put them into categories based on a classic look, charactery look, a kind face, very simple faces," he said. "We’ll do things based on height and weight, looking for a bruiser or a bodyguard, or a classic sweetheart couple. I take all those pictures that I feel go into categories and submit it to the director and assistant director team...

"You always see someone at the front of the movie jogging through the scene. That may not mean much to the viewer, but it means a lot to the writer. It sets the scene for the viewer. It’s like painting a palette; we take all those words written in black and bring them to color."

No matter what body type someone has or what they look like, Marinella said they can fit a role for an extra. While being an extra isn’t a complicated job, not everyone can do it.

"(None of the extras will) say something with their mouth, but they will say something with their face and expressions. They have to able to take direction, look at the camera, shake your head in disappointment or smile, or walk here. People have to be smart and just be themselves," Marinella said. "There really is no skill, but you have to be able to process things."

Out of the couple hundred extras in "Footloose," Marinella said about 80 to 90 percent of them were from the county and surrounding areas, providing a boost to some local bank accounts.

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