~WFE ‘Extras’ Share Their Set Stories~

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February 14, 2011 ~ Nearly a year ago when I learned that Kevin Ketcham had been cast in Water for Elephants as a Benzini Bros. Roustabout I had asked him to contribute to the WFE film blog… He finally came through and I am very happy to publish his “WFE Set Story”, today, on Valentines Day 2011! Over the course of filming Water for Elephants Kevin kept us in the loop with his very interesting and charming Tweets. I am so pleased that he’s sharing his ‘moments’ with us! You can follow Kevin on Twitter @kevinketcham and be sure to check out his website, www.kevenketcham.com (Thank you, Kevin, you’re awesome!)

“THE MOMENT” By : Kevin Ketcham
When asked by @WFEfilm to share my adventures, as a Benzini Brothers Roustabout I proudly obliged. I told K I’d love to share my journey with all of the amazing Water for Elephants fans, and I had promised K my first blog post the 2nd week of January. Yet here it is almost Valentines Day, and I had written nothing. It was not because of laziness, but I hadn’t started writing because I didn’t know where to start. The 45 days of filming were filled with so many memorable moments that I didn’t want you guys to miss out on any, so today I’ll write about the beginning and “The Moment”.

Shortly after getting cast as one of the 25 core Roustabouts, I quickly went and read the book “Water for Elephants” because I wanted to know every detail of what was going on, on set; I picked it up and finished it in a day! (Yeah it is that good, but you readers know that already.) I went to a fitting to try on costumes and there I met a few of the other Rousties including Thor Knai and Tommy Lukasewicz. We quickly decided to carpool to save gas because WFE filmed in Fillmore and Piru (Calif.) which is about 45 minutes north of Hollywood, in traffic, much longer. The first day of filming on WFE started on May 20th , but the 25 Rousties attended two days of official Roustabout training on the 18th and 19th. At our first training session we met a few of the P.A.s, and the 2nd Assistant director Greg Hale. He talked for a bit about the vision that Francis Lawrence had about how the film would look , and he explained our role as the Rousties. In his speech he was quick to mention that although the work days will be long and physically demanding, it will be greatly rewarding as well. We will be a vital part of the cast, like the coal that keeps the train moving. We all looked around at each other with excitement, but at that point we were just 25 guys hanging out, little did we know that we would all form a strong bond giving worth and meaning to the title of being a “Benzini Brother”.

Over the next two days we got the privilege of training to be Roustabouts from the actual L.A. Circus!! They taught us all aspects of the Depression Era circus life. We learned how to tie circus style knots and how to raise the Big Tops from the ground up, we learned how to swing 25 pound sledge hammers around a stake like a real team, and we learned all about being a part of the Big Top! It was amazing, and after those two days we weren’t just acting like Roustabouts we were becoming them! It was truly awesome.

The first days of shooting were upon us! Disclaimer: This is the story of my experiences as a Roustabout, I’m sure you will soon see and hear many interviews with Robert, Reese, and Christoph about their experiences, so you can experience their stories 1st hand. So this is all I will say. It was great to see such an amazing and talented group of actors perform together. From Day 1 of shooting it was clear that Robert, Reese, and Christoph had already spent a great deal of time building a strong relationship with the other star of Water for Elephants: Tai the elephant. I’m certain that once the film hits the big screen their relationship with Tai will unfold beautifully in front of your eyes. So yes ladies, Robert is an animal lover. And wait until you see how amazing Reese is with Tai and the horses while performing under the Big Top!! Many times over the course of the shoot I just stood awestruck, with my jaw open, at the stunts Reese was able to do.

By now you have got to be wondering why I entitled this blog, “THE MOMENT”, and now I’ll tell you. I truly believe that over the course of our lives we will all experience occasions that we look back upon and realize that we took those times for granted. Maybe for you it was time spent with a loved one, or maybe your High School years, maybe a boyfriend or girlfriend that was better for you  than you thought when you were in that relationship. These are all regrettable but something that cannot be helped, as that is life. You just keep moving forward.

But every now and then you get lucky, you have a “MOMENT”…  You are overcome with an indescribable euphoria, your adrenaline starts pumping, you get goose bumps and you have mental clarity that you thought was unachievable. And in this moment you completely realize that you are a part of something special and amazing that is bigger than you will ever be, and these are the moments that when people ask you what happened you’re at a loss for words and all you know is that you are a part of something magical, you just feel it.


My “MOMENT” happened on day three of filming, it was right before dusk and the sun was a glowing a hue of red and orange and it was setting over the mountains of Piru. The air was fresh and crisp; it smelled like the farms of the Midwest. All twenty-five of us Roustabouts were standing on the train as it pulled into the camera shot. Dark black smoke billowed out of the front train car and the crew released a flurry of white dandelion seeds that flew through the air glistening in the fading sunlight. It looked incredible!! I turned to the right and left to tell my Roustabout brothers what I was feeling, but words weren’t necessary we were all experiencing the “MOMENT” together… From that point on I lived and breathed Water for Elephants, every moment was precious, I knew that Francis Lawrence and Rodrigo Prieto had a masterpiece on their hands! Since wrapping that film I’ve talked to dozens of people, crew members, actors and background actors who have all come up to me and said that they have never had an experience like Water For Elephants. Every one wants to recreate that feeling they had shooting that film and I tell them they can’t. None of those MOMENTS and MEMORIES can be replicated because they were MAGIC.

January 11, 2011 ~
I originally contacted Cody Wood back in April 2010, when I was putting together my ~Meet the Extraordinary WFE Film Extras~ page and he graciously accepted my offer to appear on my WFE film blog. He was originally cast as  the ‘Big Top Band’ fiddle player… However, as is the nature of the film business, his part was ‘written out’ and since I thought that he was no longer a part of WFE I removed his entry from the page (I have re-posted his profile)… Thankfully, Cody’s luck changed and the casting agency found a way to fit him into the remainder of the shoot as a Rube/Townsman/Extra. Cody was on the Piru, CA set July 6-8 2010 and again July 11-12. He was also at 20th Century Fox Studios in LA, CA on July 19, 2010 to film the ‘Circus Parade’ sequence. He had a fantastic time on both sets and has written a very engaging account of his Water for Elephants filming experience which he posted on his Facebook page. I contacted Cody and asked if I could post the full story on the WFE film blog, he happily agreed… I have created a separate page for the full account… Here is the link to Cody’s fabulous Set Story ~  WFE: A Rube’s – Eye View.  Thank you, Cody, you’re brilliant!

~Liam, Sonya and Mason~

August 23, 2010 ~ As we all know WFE moved to Tennessee and Georgia for the last few days of filming… We also know that about two weeks prior to the move a casting call was posted looking for local residents that would be used as ‘extras’ in the film; specifically children ages 7-15. The production needed local kids to portray Jacob and Marlena’s five children; three boys and two girls. When the Gonzalez family, who live in TN, heard about the casting notice they decided to send in photos of all four of their children for consideration. Ten year old daughter, Abby, was the one that showed the most interest and thought it would be fun to be in a movie. However, it was her two younger brothers, Mason, who is seven years old and five year old, Liam, that actually won the parts. The family was very pleased and surprised that both boys had been selected to appear in the film! Big sister, Abby, was not disappointed at all and has been very supportive of her brother’s big film adventure. I contacted Sonya after learning that her boys had been cast in the film and asked her if she would like to share their Water for Elephants set story with my film blog. She was more than happy to fill in the details of their day on set and also shared some photos as well. Sonya and her family were invited to the cast party where she had a chance to chat with Rob Pattinson and Director Francis Lawrence. Below is Sonya’s account of adorable Mason and Liam’s day on the WFE film set. *Thank you, Sonya, for sharing the boy’s WFE filming adventure!

Mason and Liam Gonzalez: Jacob and Marlena’s younger sons ~
“We were so excited that both boys had been chosen to be extras in the movie because they do everything together. We had never been to a filming before and we were very curious to see what it would be like. We found out that call time would be very early: 6am! We live about an hour from the filming location, so we let the boys sleep in their clothes the night before and just carried them into the van at 5am. We had a hard time finding the filming location, it seemed like we were going nowhere… Then suddenly we saw cars lined up along both sides of the road and people standing around, some holding signs that said, “We love you, Rob!” We drove on down and found the “base camp.” After we showed our security badges they waved us on in. I have to admit, that felt pretty cool! We walked over to where the trailers were, the sun was just starting to come up and we could see our surroundings much better. It was a farm and we wondered if this was where we would do the scene, then we found out that they were going to drive us over in vans to the set further on down the road. The wardrobe crew gave us the outfits the director had chosen for the boys to wear; a couple days prior the boys had tried on a few different outfits. They had taken pictures of them all and sent them over to the director for him to choose his favorite. I was happy with his choice, both boys were going to look adorable! Before we left Mason told them which outfit he wanted to wear in his next movie! They directed the boys to go and change in the extras’ dressing room in one of the trailers. Afterward we took them over to the trailer where they would get their haircuts for the scene. Before we went in they called Rob over to meet the boys. He came over, smiled, and said hi to the boys and me and then went into the trailer. They called for Liam to come sit in the chair for his haircut, but he was nervous and wanted Mason to go first. Mason sat in the chair and was only two chairs away from where Rob was shaving and getting his final prep work done. They did a great job on the boys’ hair; they looked so cute. They then took us in vans over to the area where we would shoot the scene. When we got there they had a caterer’s tent set up where there was a breakfast buffet for us to enjoy while we waited. Shortly after we ate they came to walk us over to the site; it was behind a farm house and really pretty. One of the assistant directors came over to show the boys what they would do for the scene. After practicing a few times they started to roll the cameras. They took about 4-5 takes of this scene. After the second take my youngest son Liam ran over to me and said, “Again?!?” I encouraged him to keep at it and told him he was almost done and doing great! After a couple more takes they were all through! That was that. We went back to change them out of their adorable vintage clothes and went back home, so exhilarated from the whole experience, but also coming back to the reality of life again. Life probably won’t get this exciting again for a while! But if Mason has anything to do with it, it will. I think he has caught the acting bug. He was so cute the way he watched the director so carefully and took it all very seriously. We’ll see where life takes him, and all of us, next! We are truly proud of them both and are so grateful for this adventure. Everyone we met was really nice and professional. I had the incredible opportunity to talk with the director and Rob at the cast party, and both of them were very down to earth and nice. We truly had a great experience!”

Sonya almost appeared in the film as well after her husband dropped a hint. Sonya writes: “When they were asking about the children to be considered for extras he mentioned that his wife would be interested in doing something as well. They thought they were going to need a double for Reese for one little scene and asked about my size and all. I happened to be pretty close to Reese’s weight and height, so they agreed to look at pictures of me and see if I would work. They eventually asked me if I would be willing to do it if they needed me, but they ended up shooting the scene with the real Reese before they left LA, so they didn’t need to do it here. But it was great fun being considered! Maybe I will have to start a new career in doubling! I think it would be great fun!”

Since Francis is a bit of a hero of mine I asked her what they talked about… She writes: I basically told Francis how much the boys enjoyed being in the movie and asked him what other films he had done. When he told me he had directed “I am Legend” I was so excited and told him what a great movie it was and what a wonderful job he did on it. We talked some more about the boys’ experience and he was very nice! I loved meeting him.”

Sonya concludes: “Rob was really great too, and I didn’t know before that he had a British accent. It is really lovely, and I hope he does a movie someday where he doesn’t have to hide it, if he hasn’t already. I was thrilled to meet them both and was grateful they let me take a picture with them. Everyone we met was so nice and professional; I was impressed with the whole experience and would love for my kids to get more opportunities like this in the future. I may have to sign them up with an agency soon!” (*Note: The three other children cast in the film are two young girls from Atlanta and a thirteen year old boy from Chattanooga. The scene involving the children is very important to the ending of the film, so hopefully it will not be cut from the final print!)



August 12, 2010 ~
Jay Beyers is a promising actor who was hired as a Roustabout on Water for Elephants and pretty much stayed ‘under the radar’ whilst filming was underway. I contacted him after he left a nice comment on my film blog and he graciously agreed to share his WFE filming experience with me, and ultimately, with you… As with all of the actors (film enthusiasts and crew members too) that I’ve ‘met’ whilst blogging about this film Jay has been so wonderful with regard to talking about his role in Water for Elephants… Thank you, Jay, for your contribution!

Jay Beyers: Benzini Bros. Circus Core Roustabout ~
“I would like to start by saying that I am extremely proud to be part of this film and honored that you have requested my experience on set!

The first thing I did when I got the call that I had been booked for WFE was head to the nearest book store and bought the book. Now that I think about it, the first thing that I did was shout in excitement. Who would turn down the opportunity to be in a period piece, involving lots of animals, with talented celebrities, involving the circus? As I am sure previous posts have mentioned, working on this film truly meant being a part of it. Way before filming began and the circus tents were up, I arrived at a desolate fruit farm in Piru which was to be my home for the next month and a half, to meet the other core Roustabouts of the film. We had already been cast, but it was time to train in the proper way to hammer stakes, set up tents, and daily circus life. This experience taught me a lot and created new friendships with the other actors.

Life on set was really great and everyone was treated with respect. You have to understand that I have been on a lot of sets, and sometimes things can get quite chaotic and people easily lose their tempers. The second AD (Assistant Director), Greg, knew me by name and motivated everyone to work as a team. I can remember one scene in particular (Spoiler Alert), we were shooting a scene from the book that involved all of the different groups of the circus: Roustabouts, showgirls, side show, etc. There was a lot of activity because crew was busy setting up and over forty actors were carrying on conversations. He explained the scene that was going to be shot, than he called out each group one by one. “Let’s hear it for the clowns” and all of the clowns cheered, “Let’s hear it for the side show” all of the side show cheered. Of course, when he called out for the Roustabouts, I belt out in thunderous applause!

The best part about working on this film was the level of respect and professionalism that each person brought with them to set. Whether it was learning the Krause Cross (a film term often used on set), being directed by the skilled Francis Lawrence, or admiring the talents of Rob, Reese, and Christoph, working on WFE was an experience that I am grateful to say that I was a part of. The only thing that I wish would be added is a film credit for Tai the elephant who plays the part of Rosie. She really stole the attention of the film and for all that training at least deserves some credit! I am confident that this film will be a success because the dedication of the fans has been abundant.” (Thanks again, Jay! You can follow Jay and his acting career through his website: www.jaybeyers.com)

July 31, 2010 ~ Jon Weiss
who is playing one of the Benzini Bros. Circus Clowns is our featured ‘Extraordinary Extras’ today! Jon had spent 27 years with Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus. He started his career with Ringling as a clown, then became the Human Cannon Ball and then the Circus Host; he is currently hosting Circus Vargas. Water for Elephants is his first feature film and he has a great set story to share. I asked him what was his favorite scene to film and this is what he said: “My favorite scene was when Jacob is walking through the train cars lead by Camel on his way to meet August. As Jacob enters and passes through the clown car, in traditional clown fashion, “we welcome him”… We filmed all night and Robert was a great sport! We really got him good, I hope it makes it into the final cut!” Below is the rest of Jon’s awesome set story! You can check out Jon’s amazing talents on the WFE Video page! Thousand Thank you’s, Jon, for sharing!

Jon Weiss: Benzini Bros. Circus Clown ~
“I’m really having trouble processing my thoughts because I’m still in awe of the whole thing! From hearing that someone wrote a book, a story that took place in a circus, a subject that very rarely gets spoken about. The circus is older then baseball but remains a mystery. From reading the book Water For Elephants, to hearing a movie was going to be made about the book, to my audition, to finding myself sitting in a make up chair and talking to one of the biggest celebrities right now in the world!! CRAZY. Being part of Water For Elephants has been so awesome and so surreal. This being my first experience on a film I felt so at home on set, only because the setting was in the circus and that’s the life I live in everyday. It was so fulfilling watching everyone else from the crew to the extras to the actors get the feeling of what it’s like being part of a circus family. I met some old circus friends on set and also made new ones, the camaraderie was great! The producers Gil Netter, Erwin Stoff, Andrew Tennenbaum, Kevin Halloran and the great director Francis Lawrence were all so kind and a pleasure to work for! Watching Francis bring the Benzini Bros Circus to life was magical! I also had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz, Hal Holbrook and Mark Povinelli. I hear the extras usually don’t speak with the principle actors but with each one of them it totally seemed to be the norm. They all were so pleasant, genuine and each seemed as excited as I was to be a part of this film. I was also fortunate to meet the author of WFE, Sara Gruen, on set and I got to thank her and express my feelings on what a wonderful job she did in writing WFE, how authentic her writing was and how thrilled our small community of circus is. To top it all off the modern day part of the film was filmed at my circus, Circus Vargas! It was so exciting for me to have the cast, crew, producers and Francis meet some of my “real” circus family, Francis was so kind and put my wife and the Circus Vargas owners and their family members as background in the modern day portion of the film. The part of the filmed that touched me the most was when old Jacob, Hal Holbrook, “comes home” simply because it’s what we do, we always welcome our ‘own’  home. So next time you go to the circus, which ever circus it is, and you see an elderly person selling tickets, selling concession or simply cleaning up, know that its most likely a “Jacob”! Thank you for letting me be a part of your website and will continue when we are allowed to share pictures! Circus-ly yours, Jon Weiss” (Thanks again, Jon! You can follow Jon on Twitter @BigTopLife)

July 24, 2010 ~
Jackie Zane who plays the beautiful and wonderful “Lucinda” is our featured ‘Extraordinary Extra’ today! She has written a warm, heartfelt and very informative account of her WFE filming experience. Enjoy! (Thank you, Jackie! You’re amazing!)

Jackie Zane: Lucinda, Benzini Bros. Circus Sideshow Performer ~
“Working on the set of ‘Water for Elephants’ (WFE) was, in my opinion, AMAZING!  I have been on a number of sets in various capacities as an actor. Whether lead role, supporting role, featured role, or background role…there is often a strict hierarchy and segregation among the levels.  I have experienced each extreme, and witnessed a similar treatment among the production crew. The WFE set was a much different atmosphere as everyone from top to bottom was treated with the utmost respect! This seems like such an irony as the story of the circus depicted in this film had much focus on the separation of classes. I realized early on that this film experience would be unique and I cherished every moment.  Although personal cameras were banned from the actual set the images are burned in my memory. So, when I am like Older Jacob, at “90 or 93 years old – I can’t remember”, I will look back on my days with the traveling circus fondly.

Many people have asked for specific details on the filming process, and I have been requested to share with a couple different blogs. In an effort to avoid monotonous descriptions, I am sharing various accounts of my experience…so here goes! My first day on the set was a long one, about sixteen hours, and I didn’t get bored once. Everything was incredibly organized as we were shuttled through each phase of the day. First it was to base camp where after checking in and having breakfast I visited wardrobe, then hair and make-up. This is where a young man in smeared clown make-up is sitting next to me and we are making casual light talk. He extends his hand to me and says “I’m Rob, by the way!” Ahh I get to share the make-up trailer with Robert Pattinson. (So many young girls would love to be in my shoes.) He is the epitome of  friendly, he is charming and witty with the tendency to giggle as he was being fitted in one silly looking wig after another. This superstar had no ego to speak of. He was gracious and above all….human. This was my first impression of him, but it repeated itself each day. We shared several conversations in the make-up trailer and he always made a point to say hello when on set.  A few moments later a gorgeous red headed woman with sparkling eyes and a dazzling smile joins us. She immediately approaches me with genuine glee and introduces herself using an alluring southern accent this woman is Donna Scott, who plays the role of Barbara. This gal is beautiful inside and out and greeted me each day with a hug and kiss on the cheek. There is already something magical happening as the ease and friendliness of the actors unfolds.

Once I am transformed into a 1930’s style woman with wig and make-up, I am taken to set to shoot a breakfast scene with a large number of other featured performers under an authentically tattered circus tent, with zebras, horses, and llamas in the background. I am seated next to Kinko played by the fantastic actor Mark Povinelli. (I had the pleasure of working with him in an episode of ‘Cold Case’, so it was great to see a familiar face!) My other table-mates were the Benzini Bros. Circus clowns!!! They were the utmost fun!!! It brought a whole new meaning to the term ‘clowning around’ and the circus family feeling soon emerged! We were laughing while shooting a scene where Jacob wakes up from a rough night in unfamiliar clothes; he soon realizes that he is also positioned to wake up shoved in a trunk and placed on a pedestal in the breakfast tent. He must make his humiliating walk of shame through the crowd and past our table. Several takes later we were given a lunch break and finally a chance to get to know some of the other amazing people.  In a cast of mostly men the ladies bonded together instantly; Show Girls, Coochie Girls and Side Show Performers UNITE! This did not keep us from getting to know the men however… C’mon! A tent full of handsome fellas in 1930’s attire is enough to make any girl swoon!! There is just something elegant and romantic about that era whether in a suit, band uniform, or dirty workman’s overalls the look was stunning! Costume designer Jacqueline West and her team had an incredible eye for detail. Each and every person went through daily inspection to insure authenticity. While in my sideshow costume I always wore an embroidered butterfly on my foot or ankle; a small vintage detail that will most likely go unnoticed, but is an example of how thorough they were! After lunch I am summoned to wardrobe for a costume change and make-up refresher then swept away to a private photo shoot where a few of us were photographed individually. In an effort to recreate some old vintage photographs our images are going to be used as some of the movie props. Afterwords it’s back to wardrobe for costume change number three. The day is flying by and I hardly notice that I am already into the tenth hour!

The sky is darkening as we are in our make-up trailers preparing for the party scene in Kinko’s train car. As is often the case with film many scenes are shot out of sequence. It is actually supposed to be the night before the breakfast scene we finished earlier in the day. As evening envelopes the production crew is hard at work setting up for the night shoot. The amount of light permeating the darkness from the giant flood lights is obnoxious. However the talented crew uses the right angles, shadows, and effects to enhance the mood. Herbal cigarettes, matches, and mugs are handed out to create the party atmosphere as we oooh and ahhh as Queenie the dog performs tricks. The desert night is cool and brisk as we film into the wee hours. After wrapping for the day I make my way back to base camp to change out of my costume and turn in my wig. As we board our shuttle to return to parking it amazes us that the group of people parked outside of the set entrance from this morning are still there. I later learn that these are the dedicated fans, known as ‘set soldiers’, that continued showing the love and support day in and day out through the entire filming process. Their constant enthusiasm and heartfelt waves to everyone involved was endearing.  It was clear that most of them were there in support of Rob or Christoph, but they did not discriminate they made us all feel loved!  Hence, crawling into bed at 3:00am was a glorious feeling it had been a full day and I felt like a lot was accomplished, I couldn’t wait for my next day of filming. My shoot dates were scattered throughout the months of May, June, and July, each day was a new and exciting adventure as we would escape back to the 1930’s. The WFE circus family was full of interesting personalities that was an incredible mix of people, we all seemed to genuinely like each other and every single one of us felt honored to be part of such an amazing group.

Other scenes I was involved in included the interior of the train, another breakfast, under the big top with Rosie, and a scene in front of a green screen. The easy going vibe continued throughout the filming. The first day I worked with Reese Witherspoon she approached a group of us and introduced herself.  She would always go out of her way to say hello to me and was extremely approachable. No wonder she has one of the best reputations in Hollywood for nicest person to work with! Her kids visited the set a few times and she beamed with pride when we chatted about them. I’ll say the same for her as I did Rob: She was incredibly friendly and above all…human.  Then there was Christoph Waltz, I worked with him for three days and even when standing just inches from him I could only muster a shy “Hi”.  I found myself feeling dumbfounded; he was fantastic during his scenes and joked around between takes, yet I found myself star struck! Finally I was sitting next to him in the make-up trailer (clearly the BEST place to meet people!!), and officially introduced myself. He was friendly, laughed at a joke I made and exchanged pleasantries.  Suddenly he was in my eyes …human.  Although there is something thrilling about being near someone that makes you feel star struck, there is so much more satisfaction to see them as a real person, at least that is how I feel…

The most amazing star however was, hands down, Tai the elephant. She played Rosie and is absolutely mesmerizing. I kept hearing about her from others who got to work with her, or watch her practice. I was often filming other scenes or being prepped and had missed out on several opportunities to see her. The first time I saw her was close up. She was walking beside me into the big top tent for a scene, I stopped to let her pass and she radiated warmth and kindness with her amber eyes.  She is incredibly well trained and docile… She seemed absolutely smitten with Rob: She raised her trunk to sniff his face repeatedly as he gently pet her in an effort to give her attention while he focused on receiving direction for the scene. It was such a Kodak moment, but alas, I had no camera.

Francis Lawrence is like no director I have worked with before. Often as a featured or background actor, one does not see much of the director. There is usually a group of people huddled behind the monitors and direction comes via walkie-talkie to the Assistant Director who then relays the info to the background. This is just common practice. Although this practice was used some of the time, Francis was very accessible. He was often walking around the set, chatting with all the actors and setting up the scene. Heck, I even saw him act as a stand-in (when the hired stand-in was unavailable) so they could set the lighting and camera angle!! He made a point of saying hello to us by name as we passed by. He made us feel important to each and every scene.

During the busier filming days on WFE additional crew people were hired in several capacities. One visiting crew member said to me, “If a fish stinks at the head, then it is rotten all the way down to its tail.“  This metaphor is in reference to many situations she has encountered in the industry. It was, however, a backwards reflection on WFE as she followed with “When it’s good at the top, it’s good all the way through.” Her meaning was that everyone working on WFE was fantastic, and therefore, this fish was good head-to-tail. It didn’t matter if it was the producer, director, principle actor, hair/make-up/wardrobe, caterer, background actor, background wrangler, or security guard; everyone was treated with respect and a part of a whole.

I felt honored and proud to a part of this film. It is a project where the old saying ‘There are no small parts’ rings true.  All too often the background and featured background actors are not acknowledged or appreciated with the respect they deserve.  I often shy away from extra work for this very reason. So it was incredibly refreshing to be a part of such a fantastic story along with equally amazing people. I would like to thank everyone who worked on the film, as well as Sara Gruen, for writing such a fascinating story. A very special thank you goes to the fans that have showed such tenacious support. This experience will always hold a special place in my heart!” (Thanks again, Jackie,  for sharing your set story… You can follow Jackie on Twitter @jackiezane)

July 17, 2010 ~
Since filming has wrapped for many of the WFE ‘Extraordinary Extras’ I’ve asked them to share their set stories with the WFE Film blog. I’ve had a positive response from several of our favorite ‘extras’ and we begin with @TheLionShare aka Robert Kestler. Below is the re-cap of his WFE set experience. I will be posting re-caps from Jackie Zane (@JackieZane), Kelly Erickson (@KellMee), Jon Weiss (@BigTopLife) and hopefully many more as filming wraps up. More to come!

Robert Kestler: Benzini Bros. Circus Core Roustabout ~
“Thank you for asking about my experience on this project. I hope everyone will enjoy this film.

From day one on this project Francis Lawrence showed a total genius for film making. His use of the surroundings, sunlight, imagination, and a keen eye made for true movie magic. We shot several scenes at dawn and dusk. The “golden hour” was truly used to it’s fullest by Francis. The cast, namely Robert, Reese and Christoph were truly amazing. Each one truly genuine and kind. Working with two Oscar winners and a future Oscar winner was amazing. Robert Pattinson will show the world with this movie his versatility and depth as an actor. The fight scenes between Robert and Christoph were true genius. Both on the part of the actors and the fact they did the fights themselves. Reese is a wonderful and genuine person. I was privileged to speak with her on set. You will not find a more skilled and polished actress anywhere. Christoph is a true professional. His focus on his character and making it real is second to none. As one of the Core Benzini Roustabouts I was on set quite a bit. We “rousties” actually became like family. We got into character very quickly because of it. The scenes where we raised the circus tent, and hammered tent stakes were made perfect by this relationship. We knew we could count on each other and that made the scene chemistry flow. Now about the animals. Francis and the animal wranglers made pure gold. Rosie, the elephant, was magic to watch. She is so intelligent and gentle. She took her cues coupled with Francis’ vision and made this movie HUGE. The other animals were amazing as well. Major the lion who would not roar, The tigers, bear, and panther were beautiful. The shots of the stampede will be amazing.

I love period movies. So being able to participate in Water for Elephants was a joy. My great-grandfather, Philip Morris, made movies as an actor, in the 1920’s through the 1940’s. The realistic nature of the era made me feel closer to him. It was that real on set! I felt like I had left 2010 and was actually in 1931. There was an electric anticipation each day to see what we would be doing. Though there was real hard work involved I had a lot of fun. The wardrobe, the action, the area we filmed in made it all the more fun. I will eagerly await this films release. I cannot wait to see how they put together all of this genius. The cast and crew along with a great story made this film a pleasure to work on. Everyone was respectful and professional. But I can’t stop without mentioning the fans. The fans made all of us from the smallest role to the biggest star feel loved. Without them this would just have been another great film. The fans added an element of love that made me want to do it for them. Everyday when we came to set and when we left we saw the fans waving to us. What a joy to see people so interested in a film and its actors. I hope everyone enjoys this film because I loved making it.” Thank you, Robert, for sharing your WFE filming experience! You can follow Robert on Twitter @TheLionShare

Published on July 17, 2010 at 11:09 am  Comments (27)  

27 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. So interesting to learn about the detail of making the movie. Thanks for sharing!

    I read Water for Elephants on my 2009 vacation and was very impressed: wasn’t it Sara Gruen’s first book? She has a new one coming out soon called the Ape House. Wonder if they can make a movie from that one too? My family likes to get books about animals and watch movies with amazing animals because we can’t have pets.

  2. What a nice surprise to revisit this site to read Jackie and Jon’s experiences! Jon, I must say that I too was really touched (when reading the book) to know that Jacob returns to the circus at an old age as it is just in his blood. Interestingly, my sister’s interpretation was that Jacob had died at the end of the story and went to heaven – which was the circus. A great “home” ending either way.

    I read that Rob P. wanted to adopt the little pooch on set and wonder if he did. I am also touched by the spirit of animals and persons who love animals.

  3. Great set stories!!! It’s very interesting to read about “the extras” experiences on set. Thanks to all of you for sharing!!

  4. Thanks a lot Jackie and Robert for sharing with us, WFE fans and lovers, these wonderful experiences you two had while filming this spectacular movie. How you interacted with the rest of the actors, extras, the Directors almost made me cry. The way you say Robert is, our beloved hero, is no surprise to us, we have been following his career since the beginning and we really love him even more. Reese, Christoph, and everybody else will be forever in our memories while we wait for the movie. I know it will be fantastic and you all will deserve all the awards!!! Thanks!!!

  5. My first reaction upon reading the book was that I felt it was limited in character development.
    I read the book long before the movie was in the making and had no preconceived notions about the characters, but would not have imagined Rob as Jacob or Reese or Christoph in the other featured roles.
    Now that they are making the movie it will be interesting to see if these actors breathe life into a short and gritty novel.

  6. Thank You “Water For Elephants – Film” for developing this site and creating an avenue for the actors and fans to meet each other.

    Thank You to all the actors who have graciously given us their detailed reports. I shed tears several times. I’m so thrilled to be able to “share” this movie through your eyes and your views.

    Thank You also to the “SET SOLDIERS”, whose tireless campaigne represented all the fans out here who support and love this book and ALL the actors and animals involved.

    God Bless You All.

  7. It will be an impatient wait for this movie to come to the screen, but these interesting and insightful accounts of the actors experience making this film helps me to realize it will all be worth the wait.

  8. I’m really excited about seeing WFE, even more so when I read all these wonderful accounts, such as the ones above. :)

  9. Thank you so much. I love reading about the great time everyone had making this movie. I really love the way it is reported that Rosie loves Rob too. Don’t we all though. Can’t wait to see this.

  10. I think it’s so awesome that everyone is sharing their experiences it makes us very excited to see the final product.

  11. Love, love, love Jackie’s account of her time on the WFE set. I confess my heart gets all soft and gooey when she praises Rob or talks about Rosie. But it’s great to hear how wonderful everyone on the set was. I don’t know how it will do at the box office or with the critics, but from a personal standpoint I think this is going to be a real classic and for sure it was a once in a lifetime experience. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Wow… just wow.

    My impression of Reese has always been one of an accessible lady. True to her southern upbringing. I’m so happy to hear that she is.

    My few brief encounters with Rob have always made me feel that he was human. I love that she used that word to describe him. Rob has always seemed normal & not a Hollywood hothead.

    The book was good but I have a feeling this movie will be great!

  13. Such lovely reports. Brought a tear to my eye.

  14. Thank you so much for sharing these incredible stories…

    I’m very excited for this movie…and I love how everyone talks about Rob and how gracious he is.

  15. I am really looking forward to meeting Rosie on screen. I hope the animals were treated kindly, and I can’t help but wonder how you acquired a lion with no teeth. It was hard for me to read the portions in the book where the animals were mistreated.

    • The lion has teeth he just won’t Roar. It’s an instinct he has but the conditions in captivity don’t require that he ever use it. But he has huge teeth.

  16. I have read the book. Rob,Reese and Christoph fit the
    roles perfectly. And so do the “roustabouts” and rest of the cast. Can’t wait to see this movie.
    Truly oscar nominees!

  17. Thank you all for the kind comments. It’s because of people like you that I enjoy what I do. Your passion for this film really makes me feel part of something special. God Bless

  18. Thanks for including us fans in your experience. It is one I for one won’t forget. This looks like it’s going to be an amazing movie, and because of all of your tweets, it will be more special. Thanks again and good luck.

  19. It’s been such a pleasure following the daily #WFE updates on Twitter! I can hardly contain my excitement for this film, and I also expect to see many golden statuettes handed out for it.
    Congratulations on being a part of it and thank you for sharing your story.

  20. From all that I have read I think this film is going to be amazing.

  21. As soon as I read the script and the book, I predicted there would be a shiny trophy in Rob’s future. What a lovely account from Robert Kestler. So glad he had such a great experience. I have such a good feeling about this movie!

  22. That was awesome, Robert K. Classy page, too. I recently read the book after glimpses of the characters in mind as posted on the web. Rob, Reese and Chris, you are all so captivating and with that in mind, it made for an especially engaging read. Congratulations, Francis Lawrence. And Robert P., I really hope you win your first Oscar with this movie. I’m a real fan of yours and know that you are a gifted actor.

  23. Didn’t care for the book but I’m excited to see Reese in another role.

  24. I’m so excited for Rob – thanks for this post – this guy has many great things to say about everyone. I’m glad he was so positive about Rob having the ability to play with the “big boys” in this one. Can’t wait to see the fight scenes. Guess the fight training for Eclipse helped for WFE too. GO WFE AND RP – we love you.

  25. I have read the book and cant’ wait to see the movie. I also love movies based on earlier time periods. Reese is a wonderful actress and I have no doubt she’ll be amazing in this. I’m new to Robert Pattinson but he will pull this movie off and show the world that he does know how to act, Oscar winner in the very near future for sure! :)

  26. Ah,love this. Thanks so much for taking the time to share this with us. Best wishes!

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