Article in The Albuquerque Tribune: ‘Bordertown’: Extras clearly not stars of the show

Elizabeth Gabel has a couple of very important rules when it comes to extras working with Hollywood stars.

One: Don’t ask for their autograph.

Two: Don’t take their picture.

With an increasing number of star-powered productions lured to New Mexico by state-sponsored incentives, it’s a law that Gabel has been busy laying down, most recently as the extras casting director for “Bordertown.”

The movie, the story of a reporter investigating the killings of hundreds of women in Juarez, has a cast that includes Jennifer Lopez, Martin Sheen and Antonio Banderas. Part of it is being shot in The Tribune’s offices next week.

For “Bordertown,” Gabel had to find 1,000 extras – nonspeaking characters in a film who fill in the background while stars do their work in the foreground.

“Atmosphere,” Gabel says.

She describes her job as “kind of like being a painter.”

“You put things together. You put faces together to create kind of a feel and texture behind the actor,” she says.

For scenes featuring Lopez’s reporter character working in the newsroom re-created at The Tribune’s offices, Gabel sought extras who would be convincing reporters. That meant finding people who looked not only serious, but edgy and energetic – something of a cross between an artist and a business person, she says.

Other scenes shot last week meant creative costuming. One extra was a businessman in one scene and a bum in another, she says.

“We shot Chicago and New York the same day with the same people,” she says. “It was a challenge. We really are trying to fill in a lot of spaces in a very short period of time.”

For actors looking to launch their Hollywood careers, Gabel says extra work can be a start.

“It is definitely one step into that process,” she says, because it can demonstrate an actor knows movie set etiquette.

Being star-struck is an enchantment that wears off after working in the entertainment business for a while, she says.

“We don’t sit and socialize with the stars, because they’re working just like we’re working and we work long, hard hours,” she says. “It’s a business and we’re professional and we treat them like they’re professionals.”

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