The Oscar nominated film, Hidden Figures, tells the story of a team of African-American women mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the US space program. We interviewed background performer, Sarah, about her experiences in the film industry.
When did you realize you were a geek girl?
Oh gosh, probably when I was very small. My Dad read the Hobbit to me, he did voices for all the different creatures and this is still probably my favorite memory of him. I grew up watching Doctor Who and Tom Baker will always be my favorite Doctor.
I was also a huge Star Wars fan. My brother had almost all of the little figures and we spent many hours creating scenarios with them using the [Styrofoam] inserts from boxes to create landscapes and castles for them to play in.
I was also a total math and science geek at school. At the age of 8 I got assigned extra maths homework because my teacher thought I needed more of a challenge. As I got older
I developed a hatred of maths (it's maths ok not math, I'm British), but I continued to find biology and chemistry soooo interesting that I studied them both at university, in particular plant biochemisty.
Is there anything you completely fangirl over?
Clothes more often than media or science these days. I am currently obsessed with vintage clothing, particularly the period from 1910-1950. I love just looking at images of clothing from that period, as well as buying it, working as background in films set in that era and watching film and tv from that time period too. I would get extremely excited if Tom Baker were to ever come to town but I realize that is highly unlikely to happen.
What drew you to period films and how did you get started in the industry?
In the city where I went to university there was a huge vintage clothing shop, and they would hold sales where they would sell off clothing from theaters. You could go and scramble through a mountain of clothing and pay a few quid for a trash bag full. It started there! I have never really dressed "normal". I was a goth back in the day and vintage just seemed to be a natural progression from there.
What has been your best experience on a movie set?
I can't tell you because the film hasn't been released yet, and the film companies are really strict about giving any details away. I'll just say it involved an 18th century costume and one of my favorite British actresses. Aside from that, working on the film "Bessie" about the blues singer Bessie Smith was amazing! Early 1930's costume and we filmed at the Fox theater, from 10am until 4am the following morning. That was quite the experience. Oh, and I also got to meet Michael Keaton on the set of The Founder.
Hidden Figures has been a huge success, what was it like working on the film?
So much fun. I got to work in a very small office scene with Kirsten Dunst and
Octavia Spencer who were both very down to earth and amusing. These were long days and crazy back combed big 60s hair.
Did you meet any of the women? What did you learn from the film?
I met Octavia Spencer and she was as hilarious in real life as she is on film. Kirsten Dunst was just really, really nice. I learned that you would probably need to get up about 90 minutes before we do nowadays in order to style your hair before work back then! It's hard to get an idea of the whole story when you work on little scenes. You're isolated from the big picture, (sometimes intentionally as the film company doesn't want you leaking the story) so I didn't really get a full idea of just how powerful the film was until I went to see it recently.
If someone wanted to get into extra work, what steps would you recommend they take?
Register with as many casting companies as you can. There are loads now in the Atlanta area; some require you to go into their offices and register, some you can do online. I mostly follow casting companies on Facebook, they post daily about upcoming requirements. If you fit what they are looking for, email them, they will give instructions in their posts.
Don't apply for something that you have no intention of really doing. They will remember you, and be prepared if you do get picked for long boring days. It looks like it's all fun and glamorous, but it really isn't. There's a huge amount of down time, the pay is awful, and the food is usually not great... but then you can have one or two experiences that make it all worthwhile. Be selective, I only usually apply for period films. If you only want to be in super hero films, only apply for those. No point in committing to a 15 hour day for something you have no interest in, just for the sake of being on the telly.
Thanks to Sarah for her time and lovely British accent. You can read more about her film experiences HERE.
Hidden Figures will be featured during the Academy Awards on February 26.