When the opportunity to be in a movie comes knocking on your local community's door, it is hard to resist the calling. So when filming of the “Big Stone Gap” movie in the beautiful and quaint Southwest Virginia town for which it's named started, several local residents took full advantage of the opportunity.
Each person had a unique experience while working on the set, but a similar thread runs through all of the stories: One of the kindness and warm hearts of everyone involved – especially the author and director, hometown hero Adriana Trigiani.
Tracy Kress met Adriana Trigiani through her husband, Greg Kress. Greg and Adriana graduated from Powell Valley High School together and have been longtime friends. The Kresses own the full-service beauty salon, Tracy's Salon on Main, where Adriana is a customer, and the adjacent coffee shop, The Ugly Mug, in Wise, Va., and reside in Big Stone Gap.
Because of their long-term friendship, Adriana was excited to share the movie opportunity with Greg and Tracy. Tracy plays one of the “Foxes,” a group of middle-aged, divorced women on the prowl and regular volunteers with the local play, "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine."
While the production crew was in town, Tracy became good friends with the wardrobe staff and has a new respect for the work they put into a movie and all of the behind-the-scenes details that contributes to a movie production.
“They work 24 hours if required and put a lot of time and thought into the scenes, especially when it is a dated film,” said Tracy.
All the actors/actresses she met on the set were kind and considerate, according to Tracy. In every scene she participated in, they went out of their way to treat everyone with respect and made her and everyone involved feel included. On the other side, everyone she met involved with the film commented on how warm and hospitable the local community was towards them. The area's true southern hospitality was prevalent.
“The 'Big Stone Gap' movie will put us on the map, motivate local people to open businesses and make it even better. It will connect the history we have in our area with the present time and current generation,” said Tracy. “Hopefully, it will continue to boost tourism and enthusiasm in our community.”
To sum up her experience with the "Big Stone Gap" movie, Tracy said, “Adriana is the true star of this production. She is the real deal and has a genuine good heart for people. She makes everyone feel significant.”
Especially the residents of her hometown, Big Stone Gap.
Dee Ginn of Kingsport believes each new opportunity provides a learning experience. When her daughter asked her why she was going to be an extra in the movie, her reply was “Why not?”
She wanted to see a film from a different perspective and find out what takes place behind the camera and in the background on a film set. When she found out the public was invited to participate as extras on the set of “Big Stone Gap,” she made her way to the town one early morning to start on her movie adventure.
The “extras” were asked to dress in 70s clothing. Luckily for Dee, she had a collection of clothes from her mother and grandmother and found the perfect brown dress to wear to the movie set. She credits her "brown dress" for keeping her on the set and participating in various scenes as an extra.
“Everyone cast as an extra on the movie had to be very patient, as we had to sit and wait for hours at a time. We had to sit in a waiting room or, from my own experience, on a church pew for several hours,” she said.
She did get the chance to see Whoopi Goldberg during the church scene and she said Whoopi was very kind to see to it that all the “extras” received a bottle of water after sitting there for so long before she would drink herself.
One night Dee had to stay the entire night of filming after she was selected for an additional scene. She laughingly said, “The adrenaline must have kept me awake all night.”
Dee is excited to see how the movie turns out after watching the behind-the-scenes work that goes into movie production.
“It was a learning experience and a wonderful opportunity.”
Kenn Naegele is a teacher at Sevier Middle School in Kingsport and directs a production each year for Sevier students. He saw working as an extra on the “Big Stone Gap” movie as a great opportunity to share the experience with his students and to have a reunion with a long-time friend, Sharon Watroba, from his school days in upstate New York.
Actress Sharon Watroba met Adriana 10 years ago and they have been friends ever since. Sharon was cast in the role of Nellie Goodloe, and Kenn was excited to be in a few scenes involving Sharon and to spend time with his friend - after they had not seen each other in 30 years.
“It's funny, I was raised in a small town in New York, and I have lived here for over 30 years. Big Stone Gap felt like my hometown in more ways than one!" he said.
“My first day, I was part of a scene at the cemetery. The rest of the days I was called, we were in the outdoor theater where they perform 'The Trail of the Lonesome Pine.' We were referred to as 'background talent' and the assistant director made sure we knew that they couldn't do these scenes without us.”
Kenn reflects positively on the entire experience.
“The 'stars' were all very gracious, funny, and down-to-earth. I had a nice conversation with Patrick Wilson about his memories of visiting his grandmother in Big Stone Gap,” Kenn said.
As for Adriana, Kenn said “We all saw the warm, funny person who loves her town and its people, and is so excited to be able to bring this movie home. I could see that everyone involved in the filming loves her, and it is my impression that most of the stars were doing this movie to work with her as much as for any other reason.”
Tiffany Cody lives in Jonesville, Va., and is a first-year student at Mountain Empire Community College. She found out the movie production crew needed a few college interns in her oral communication class and told her professor she was interested in one of the positions.
She was called in to interview and, while she was in the waiting room, Adriana Trigiani walked in and started talking to her.
“Adriana shook my hand, was so sweet, and said that she was glad I was there,” Tiffany recalled.
Tiffany received the internship and was asked to work on the Mutual Pharmacy building to get it ready for filming.
“It wasn’t glamorous work,” she said, but it was necessary to get the former pharmacy ready for the scenes. “The building had to be cleaned and the shelves stocked with food from companies that replicated the 70s era packaging. They also brought in an old Coke machine that was really neat.”
“Everyone I worked with was very nice and they let me work around my school and work schedule. I like the fact that local people, such as myself, had the opportunity to work on the set.”
The last day of filming, Tiffany went over to “The Trail of the Lonesome Pine” to watch and, during the process, met Paul Wilson. She had been following the actors/actresses on social media throughout the filming process and was pleased to see how so many of them embraced the local community.
She thinks the movie will have a positive impact by bringing awareness to the area and will hopefully bring businesses and jobs to the community.
"People in the community are excited about the opportunities," she said.comments powered by Disqus