Ten years ago, you would get more than a few strange looks if you suggested vampires would one day roam the streets of Conyers and Covington and it being a good thing. But today, we are rolling out the red carpet and film companies have found our Southern hospitality so appealing that the vampires may be here for good.
While I am not a native of Rockdale County, this has been my home for the past decade and I cannot imagine ever moving away. One of my favorite things about being a reporter is hearing all of the exciting things going on in my community, and this week, I got a chance to be a part of the story by working as an extra on an episode of "Vampire Diaries."
When a post came across my Facebook news feed Monday calling for extras for the show, I decided to apply. (Note: I have never watched the show and have never been fond of vampire and zombie entertainment.) Within hours, I got an email stating I had been selected for the "Town Square" episode filming in Covington Wednesday. The next email told me to arrive at 4:18 p.m., expect to work 10-12 hours, bring clothing for two winter scenes and have hair and makeup camera-ready. My mind was telling me the call time seemed kind of late, the hours aren't really desirable, the winter clothing is outrageous and this might be a bad idea altogether. But you don't really need a mind to be an extra; you just need a body.
As I parked at the assigned lot on Mill Street in Covington two days later, I removed the layer of pollen off my temperature gauge that read 85 degrees and then exchanged my flip-flops for boots before gathering my coats and heading to the check-in point inside a fancy tent. There I would find myself among the most concentrated group of beautiful people I have ever been in the same tent with. These people were no joke - they had traveled great distances to be there; they had professional headshots and they talked endlessly about their future in acting. They wake up camera-ready. I soon forgot about the pollen, my hair, wearing a coat on April 10 and potentially working until 4:18 a.m.
My mind said, "Run!" but my body boarded a van that whisked me and the beautiful people to the old hardware store on the square, our base-camp for the night. The evening entailed two scenes, the first of which was a brief conversation between two actors. The second scene involved a nighttime storm, which would be produced by four gigantic fans after the sunset.
Now, I cannot glamorize this part no matter how badly I want to. As an extra for the second scene, my assignment was to stand in front of the fans and run down the sidewalk past the actors as they exited the Mystic Grill. I say fans, but let's be honest, these fans were first cousins of the jet turbine.
They did a fabulous job of suctioning every particle of pollen within a 2-mile radius and redistributing at a very rapid rate in our direction as crew members threw leaves from a bag into the wind. Remember, it is a winter setting and the mother of all storms is brewing. (Twenty-four hours later and there would have been no need to create a storm as the city of Covington was under a tornado warning.) I lost count somewhere around the 15th take and we sat idly as the camera was repositioned to get four different angles of the same scene, but what I will not soon forget is how incredibly friendly and completely professional the production crew was - a real class act by all accounts.
Successive eye assault by leaf debris and rapid pollen inhalation aside, it was an incredible sight to witness the work that is going on behind the scenes in our community. The two scenes, which will likely last less than 10 minutes on the TV screen, are actually a massive undertaking involving hundreds of people, tons of equipment, enormous planning and tremendous effort.
Apparently Rockdale and Newton counties have secured leading roles in the film industry and the spotlight will be on us for years to come. And while you won't find me on a film set again, I will be behind the scenes watching my town bask in the limelight.
Kathy Hooks is a reporter with the Rockdale News and be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.