Why I...

Why I...Owe My Sideline Career to Jason Bateman

, Daily Report

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About three years ago, when I was working at Smith, Gambrell & Russell, the movie "The Change-Up," starring Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds, was being filmed in Atlanta.

In the film Bateman played an attorney and Smith Gambrell's lobby was selected as a filming location for his on-screen office. While the production team moved forward with setting up, attorneys and staff were alerted that the team was looking for volunteers to be extras in the movie. Most of the attorneys and staff volunteered to have photo headshots taken, and I was excited to be selected with several others for the two-weekend commitment.

On the first day of filming, our role was to sit around a conference table at the law firm for a negotiation with a Japanese client. The next weekend I was placed right next to Bateman and interacted with him on-screen during a heated mediation. During the last day of filming, when Bateman was elevated to partnership at a country club, the director gave me a line in the movie. My line was "Congratulations!"

Because I had a line in the movie, my name actually was included in the credits and I became eligible for membership in the Screen Actors Guild, even though my line did not make it into the final version of the film. It was an incredible experience to see the behind-the-scenes work of the entertainment industry that so few people get to experience.

During this experience, I met Bill Marinella, president of Bill Marinella Casting, an extras casting company for indie and big-budget films, television pilots and series and commercials. He called me about a year later to ask if I would be interested in playing an extra on the upcoming television series "Drop Dead Diva." In this role, I played a lawyer (again) who sat at a counsel table during a trial. I guess you could say I have been typecast in the entertainment industry.

With the recent boom in Atlanta's entertainment industry, Bill is always in need of available extras. He contacted me in March to determine if I was interested in a spot on the new television series "Devious Maids." This time I played a Hollywood-type guest who attended a dinner party with actors including Susan Lucci, Brett Cullen and Ana Ortiz. In the last 10 minutes of the episode, Olivia Rice, who played the ex-wife of Brett's character, hangs herself in a tree in the front yard, and I was one of the horrified guests witnessing the event.

While I am not actively searching out roles to play in movies and television series that are being filmed in Atlanta, I have enjoyed getting to know the ins and outs of the industry. It is amazing to see how labor-intensive the process is. Sometimes filming involves more than 50 people behind the camera and the viewers only see the final product with one or two actors in the scene.

It is fascinating to see Hollywood come to Atlanta over the past few years. Now is definitely the time for those who are interested in learning more about the industry to get involved.

Anton F. Mertens is a partner in Burr & Forman's labor and employment group, where his practice focuses on immigration law.

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