Black-clad extras trade Labor Day leisure for chance at few seconds on-screen

Michael Arell, 21, of Bangor directs extras while filming his movie near Cascade Park in Bangor.
Gabor Degre | BDN
Michael Arell, 21, of Bangor directs extras while filming his movie near Cascade Park in Bangor.
Posted Sept. 05, 2011, at 5:58 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Dressed almost entirely in black, the beleaguered and disparaged workers trudged through the grassy field toward their meager quarters. They seemed not to notice or enjoy the tiny yellow and white wildflowers that brushed against their weary legs.

“Cut,” Michael Arell yelled Monday when the 18 extras, who gave up several hours of their holiday afternoon to appear in his as-yet-untitled film, had trudged into the trees. Arell, 21, of Bangor redirected the group to stand atop the rise where his camera sat on a tripod in the field between Cascade Park and the Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center.

“You are now the soldiers watching those people who just walked by,” he said. “You are really evil and glad these people are suffering. Think of your favorite Nazi and act like them.”

Each of the shots filmed Labor Day will last just a few seconds on-screen but the men, women and children who answered a Bangor Daily News calendar listing calling for film extras happily agreed to forgo payment for film credit.

DeAnne Rogan, 52, and her 17-year-old daughter Miriam Rogan, both of Houlton, had planned to head home Sunday from Bangor but stayed an extra day to be extras. Neither had ever performed in a film before.

“I’ve been in a lot of plays and musicals but never in a movie,” Miriam Rogan said.

Tony Gallo, 40, Mimi Dennis, 44, and their 21-month-old daughter Mitzn Gallo, all of Bangor, also participated in the filming session.

“We are movie fans,” Dennis said. “So when we read that someone locally was trying to get something like this going, we wanted to show up and support them.”

Arell was 7 years old when he started making movies. The Bangor High School graduate is now a University of Maine senior majoring in music education and minoring in film.

He has been working on this project for nearly eight years, mostly during summer vacations. The crowd scenes shot Labor Day are about all he needs to complete the picture, he said.

Arell described the untiled film as an “epic road show movie” with an overture, an intermission and grand cinematic vistas. Two of his favorite movies that fit that category are “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Dr. Zhivago,” both directed by David Lean in the 1960s, with run times of 3 hours and 45 minutes and 3 hours and 20 minutes, respectively.

“I’ve finished the first rough cut and it runs 4 hours and 20 minutes,” he said Monday. “I’m going to have to work on that.”

Arell’s film, which he wrote, plays the lead role in and is directing, tells the story of a man who travels the world and learns there’s more to life than his own failings.

“It’s a conversion story,” he said.

Arell said he expected the film to be completed and released next year, when he will submit it to film festivals.

And the name of every Labor Day extra, he promised, would roll by on a big screen in the credits.

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