Schenectady High School was transformed Thursday into a series of movie sets, filled with actors who didn’t find it difficult to pretend they were going to class.
Every extra was a high school student. They brought with them their backpacks and lunch bags and collapsed into seats with the studied boredom of a longtime student.
It wasn’t easy to get a school filled with students a week before school officially starts.
For days, crew members for the movie, “The Place Beyond the Pines” have been searching for young extras. The goal: 500 students to fill the gym, cafeteria and hallways.
Teenagers could sign up through their school websites, but word spread far beyond the official sites.
“Everyone was, like, talking. It was all over Facebook,” said Morgan Ruggiro, 15, a Scotia-Glenville student.
Until the crowds began to arrive, the crew wasn’t certain how many students would show up. By 9 a.m., with a double line wrapping around the side of the building, it was clear they would have enough.
“It’s like winning the World Series, trying to wrangle 500 kids and get ’em all here,” said extras casting director Sean Powers. “I love it!”
The students were ushered into the auditorium, where they settled down to wait for hours.
Powers wasn’t at all worried about misbe-
havior. He had 20 adult volunteer — many of them teachers and school administrators — and many of the teens’ parents came along as chaperones.
“It’s all about communication,” he said.
Schenectady High School is so large that freshman classes are clustered together to keep students from getting lost and overwhelmed. But there was no chance of anyone getting lost Thursday.
Brightly colored signs were hung every few feet, with arrows pointing toward the various sets. Each set was color-coded; students could simply follow the yellow signs to the locker room or turn left and follow pink to the lunchroom, where tables were covered with trays of food.
On the menu: oranges, apples, and a burger wrapped in foil, none of which they were allowed to eat.
All the students were instructed to bring several changes of clothes, a bookbag for hall scenes, and a lunch bag for the cafeteria scene. Many students took those instructions further, researching the coolest fads from 1994 and putting together a wardrobe to fit the movie’s time period.
“We looked at what they wore back then,” said Catherine Lucas of Schenectady, who was a newborn in 1994. “Cut-off shirts, skinny jeans, graphic tees.”
As it turns out, it’s not hard to find those today. She picked up new clothes at Walmart.
After having waited two hours for her moment in the background, she was still excited. This, she said, will be the perfect start to her senior year.
“I just want to get out of my comfort zone and do something different,” she said. “I don’t do exciting stuff.”
Of course, most of acting isn’t exciting. Once extras were called to populate the school, they were placed with precision and told to stand still. For a cafeteria scene, some were told to lean against a brick wall. Others stood in a line, while still others were handed trays of lunch food. Then they stood motionless, without speaking, as the actors went through take after take.
Occasionally, an extra was allowed to walk across the room. That was the highlight of the day, some of them said.
For others, even sitting still was exciting.
“The actor was right behind me!” said Julie Martinelli, 15, of Niskayuna.
Her friend Andi Frank, also 15 and from Niskayuna, added, “The camera was really close to us, so that was exciting.”
Both of them were surprised by the amount of equipment needed for a seemingly-simple shot.
“The cameras are huge,” Frank said. “I’ve never seen any behind the scenes stuff. It was fun.”
But for Martinelli, once was enough.
“It was a lot of waiting,” she said. “I experienced it once. It was cool.”
Others couldn’t get enough.
Jordan Rutherford, 15, also from Niskayuna, was so excited about being in a movie that he emailed the casting director himself, hoping for a job as an extra. The director told him to show up Thursday.
His mother, Joan Rutherford — who herself joined the fun Thursday, as a chaperone — told him to jump at the opportunity.
“I think it’s a once-in-a-lifetime,” she said. “I told him that.”
He decided that a day spent sitting in an auditorium, interspersed by long moments standing motionless in a hallway, was worth the experience.
And many students are hoping this isn’t a one-time event.
Tyus Hadcock, 15, of Burnt Hills, is in his school’s drama club and hopes to spend more time in front of a camera. He figured that being an extra would help.
“It’s really good experience,” he said. “There’s huge stars in it. And it’s just cool to be able to say you’re in a movie.”