Locals relish 'Hunger Games' filming experience

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 29, 2012

By Shavonne Potts
Search the Internet for Hunger Games peacekeepers and you’re likely to see David Cline. A Salisbury native, Cline was an extra in the movie and has been featured in movie posters, magazines and in a Hunger Games book.
He’s the peacekeeper on the right who is leading Jennifer Lawrence’s character, Katniss Everdeen, into the games competition.
The much-hyped movie, which premiered Friday, is about a girl who is thrust into a competition and must survive to win. The movie has been adapted from the best-selling trilogy by Suzanne Collins.
The movie, like the book, is set in the future, where competitors are pitted against each other in a fight to the death.
Much of the movie was filmed throughout the western part of the state and the Charlotte region, including the former Philip Morris cigarette plant in Concord.
Numerous local people had some involvement in the production of the movie, many serving as extras.
An East Rowan High School graduate, 29-year-old David Cline became involved by happenstance.
His friend Clyde (formerly Clyde Overcash) told Cline there was a man Cline had to meet — Bob Fechtman, a movie set designer.
David met with Fechtman, who told him about the Hunger Games movie.
“I met Bob, and we hung out for a day,” David said. “He offered me this job.”
Fechtman had no idea about David’s interest in the movie industry until they talked.
“It’s been a lifelong pursuit, but for me to pursue it with intention, I had to pursue every other avenue of my life — and once all those doors closed, I came to this. When I got this movie, it kinda sealed the deal,” David said.
Phone calls were made and the next thing David knew he was sending his measurements so costumers could create a peacekeeper or guard uniform for him.
“It fit like a glove, and they said ‘Be ready by next week.’ And that was that — I was a peacekeeper,” he said.
The only requirement was that the peacekeepers had to be between 5 feet 11 inches and 6 feet 2 inches, but in their boots, many actors shot up to 6 feet 4 inches.
Once he put the uniform on, David said he felt powerful.
“You feel like you can move mountains ’cause you’ve got this costume, this helmet, you’ve got these boots, this bulletproof vest,” he said.
David didn’t have a speaking part, but his image wound up on scores of movie-related memorabilia items.
“We shot that for three minutes and we were gone. As it turns out, they were able to capture that one iconic image,” he said.
David was already familiar with the story, having read the first book prior to filming in Shelby in late May.
There was little time to really talk with the actors in the movie, he said, but there were moments when they chatted. He had his makeup done beside the movie’s star, Jennifer Lawrence, and talked a bit with her in between takes for the scene shot at Philip Morris.
While at the former cigarette plant, the stage was set on fire for a scene, and when the smoke rose into the sky, people driving by actually thought the plant was on fire, Cline recalled.
His parents, Wayne and Jaudon, are more than thrilled.
“He said, ‘My picture is online!’ ” Jaudon said.
Since she learned about the movie from her son, she’s been collecting movie memorabilia, including books and magazines that feature David’s picture.
She’s read all of the books and loved them.
Wayne noted that David has been an extra on “CSI Miami” and played an officer in the Showtime series “Homeland.”
“It has a lot to do with connections, lucky breaks,” Wayne said.
David seems to keep making those right connections, he said.
The Clines say their son is the first in the family to seriously pursue acting.
They would love to see their son achieve his goals, “whether it’s acting or producing,” Jaudon said.
“We are proud of him for even trying,” Wayne said.
A family affair
It’s likely that some of the youngest extras for the film were in the Peeler family. Dale Peeler and his wife, Sherry, spent time on set with three of their sons.
Oldest son, Cameron, 18, Gabe, 15, and Jace, 10, were cast as children in the reaping scene, which depicts the lottery in which the contestants for the Hunger Games are chosen.
Brayden, 9, was too young to be in the film but was an extra in the pilot for Showtime’s “Homeland” series.
Gabe was selected as one of the children who walked in front of characters Katniss and her sister, Primrose (Prim), as they were ushered to the front of the stage before selections began.
Sherry and her sons were at Carolina Mall shopping for baseball cleats when they were approached by a casting director, who asked if they were there for the movie. When they indicated they were there to buy sports equipment, she insisted they take part as extras.
Jace spoke up immediately and said he’d like to do it. The casting director told them Jace was too young, but with some pleas from mom, he received a callback. Dale quickly took some headshots of the boys in the front yard of their home in Faith, and Sherry rushed their paperwork to Charlotte.
They were fitted for costumes and had their hair cut.
In the scene they were told to “look scared,” Gabe recalled.
There was a moment when actors Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth met with the extras and signed autographs. Gabe told Hemsworth, maybe he’d like to have his autograph, which made the actor chuckle.
‘I was there!’
Anna Chamberlain, a sophomore at Gray Stone Day School, spent two weeks in Shelby playing an extra in the movie’s District 12 scenes — an experience she “wouldn’t trade for anything.”
“The whole thing was very secretive,” she said of the filming process. “Even the location of the costume fittings that took place before filming was so discreet that my mom and I had trouble finding it,” she said.
The weather was “brutally hot,” and even hotter “when everyone was standing in a dirt pit with the sun constantly beating down.” A few kids actually passed out from the heat, she said, even though the crew was passing out lots of water between takes.
“One night there was a severe storm which soaked many of the costumes that were in the costume tents,” Anna said. “It took twice as long to get ready because they all had to dry off before filming. Another time, there was a severe thunderstorm on set, and everyone evacuated to the large warehouses and holding areas. It was actually pretty exciting, even though it was somewhat scary.
“I have so many wonderful memories from filming … I made tons of awesome friends who I still keep in touch with, and I can remember really neat moments that we all got to experience together.
“I was sitting in the midnight premiere of the movie, and in all of the District 12 scenes I was able to point to different objects or people or places and say ‘I was there!’”
A fantastic experience
Ryan Miles, a Salisbury resident and Catawba College student, was also a featured extra.
Ryan, a Piedmont Players Theatre veteran, is an aspiring actor who became involved with the movie by attending an open casting call at Carolina Mall.
“It was hot,” he recalls. “We had a lot of people passing out.”
Ryan was involved in the reaping scene as a child from District 12. He was also in a scene as a member of the Capitol.
“It was fantastic, to say the least,” Ryan said.
“I know this is so cliché to say, but it was magical. I enjoy doing this kind of stuff, and it was just a fun experience.”
Tricked into it
Nick Propst, a local salesman at Team Chevrolet, was sort of duped into being an extra.
His girlfriend knew about the casting call and filled out his information and even had a headshot of Nick at the ready when they happened to be in the mall the day of the casting call.
Nick, a native of Cleveland, recalled his girlfriend pulling his photo out of her purse.
A few weeks passed before Nick received a call.
He was an extra as a bow trainer in the training scene for all of the games’ contestants.
Although he did not have any scripted lines, Nick was directed by director Gary Ross to say a few things — in his own words — to actress Leven Rambin as he “instructed” her on proper bow technique.
Rambin portrays Glimmer in the movie, a tribute from District 1.
Nick recalls the words he spoke to the character but isn’t sure they made it in the final edits.
“‘It’s the bow,’ she said. I said, ‘It’s not the bow; it’s your angle. You have to pull it all the way back to your ear and let it go,’” Nick recalled.
The training scene was filmed at the Philip Morris plant and took a month to film.
Nick also acted as a stand-in for the character Thresh. The director and lighting crew tested Nick’s body movements before setting up shots for the actual actor, Dayo Okeniyi.
In the book, Thresh, a male from District 11, gets chosen during the reaping ceremony.
At the time of the film, Nick had only read the first book.
He chatted a little bit with Lawrence, Okeniyi and Rambin during downtime.
“If they were there, we were talking,” Nick said. “I liked them.”
The experience of being part of a movie was wonderful, Propst said.
“I met a lot of people — extras, actors and a lot of people from different places,” he said.
Acting has always been a distant dream for him, but he hopes to find work as an extra on other local movie projects and someday move on to bigger roles.
Now that he’s been in a movie and hopes to do others, what does he say to his girlfriend’s trickery?
“Um…thank you,” Nick said, laughing. “Sometimes you need that push to get where you want to go.”
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253. Intern Bri Salgado contributed to this story.