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5 people (and an animal) you may not expect to see on a movie set

It is no secret that a film production company is like a small independent city equipped with everything from generators to its own waste management system. Even a low-budget film may be required to accommodate over a hundred people. But aside from crew, actors and others you would expect to see on a set, here are a few that may come as a surprise.

Massage practitioners

There is a certain amount of physical stress that comes with 14-hour workdays. Smart massage therapists know this and often bring their massage chairs to the set. For a reasonable price, the overworked people on set can have all that stress rubbed out of their necks and shoulders. These folks are not usually hired by the production company.

Volunteers

The instant someone becomes a filmmaker they set foot on the moving sidewalk of their career. Along the way these filmmakers do a lot of work for others on a quid-pro-quo — but later — basis. In other words, as you help other filmmakers turn their dreams into reality, you build up a reserve of future favors for yourself.

Many years ago I worked on a very small film. The director was finally bringing his dream to the screen. Much of his crew were volunteers. They were all skilled, and all were paying back a favor or expecting one in the future. One volunteer was a woman who had taken two weeks off her job as a director of marketing at Yahoo. She worked both at set decoration and wardrobe and was very good at it.

People who may never be paid do have one requirement: good food. Volunteers must be fed well. Napoleon Bonaparte supposedly said, "An army marches on its stomach," and the same is true for film volunteers.

Politicians

His constituents may not have realized it, but Gov. Jon Huntsman was a big fan of Utah's lively film industry and often visited Utah movie locations. Gov. Gary Herbert is also aware of how important film is to Utah's economy and, among others, has visited the movie locations for the Hollywood films "127 Hours" and "The Lone Ranger."

The transient

Considering that every film set has on-site security, you may be surprised to read that many movie locations somehow end up with at least one person wanting to know where they are handing out free sandwiches.

Firefighters

On film sets, there are occasions when the fire alarm must be turned off to accommodate a special effect. For example, suppose the director wants a crowded auditorium to be filled with smoke — smoke that would normally activate the fire alarm and get the folks down at Station 18 very excited. In such cases, the local fire marshal would require a firefighter to be present at all times.

Dogs

In the movies, some dogs are people and some people are dogs. You can find both on a film location. Aside from the star or two who might bring a purse dog, "set dogs" are often brought onto a set by people who work out of a separate shop such as the prop shop or the special effects shop. Most of these dogs are very friendly as well as well-trained and obedient. They know when to be quiet — unlike the rest of the crew.

Someday you might be an invited guest on a film production. It is exciting and you'll be even more welcome if you don't touch anything and watch where you step. And while you're there, be on the lookout for people you wouldn't expect to find on a movie set — which might even include yourself.

For information about movies that have been filmed in Utah go to: www.film.utah.gov/filmed-in-utah.

Steve Biggs has served the entertainment industry for more than 30 years. He is the president of Special Effect Supply in North Salt Lake. He loves all things creative. He has no children to speak of. EMAIL: steve@fxsupply.com