WFE Extra, Jonathan Moore, Talks About Working With Rob

Robert Pattinson stood inches from me. Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz, both Oscar winners, were only feet away. Directly in front of me, and behind the camera, sat Rodrigo Prieto, an Oscar-nominated director of photography.

I should have been completely awestruck at the level of talent that surrounded me. Yet the only thing I could truly focus on was my aching feet and legs due to the flat slippers the wardrobe department had given me to wear – and having to stand on them for hours on end.

Playing the Tall Man, a non-speaking, featured-extra role in the film “Water for Elephants” proved to be equal parts fun and exhausting.

Based on the popular book of the same name by Sara Gruen, the story is about a young man who joins a Depression-era circus. I was cast as a part of a group of sideshow performers that included a midget, Wolfboy, the Fat Lady, the Strong Man and a couple of contortionists.

My job was to be present in the background and, in some cases, right up next to the lead actors. I suppose my claim to fame was the scene in which I and a few other men physically shoved Pattinson to the front of a group of circus workers so that he could be properly “initiated” into the circus life by being sprayed with water, pelted with pies and kissed by the showgirls.

But there were other scenes, too, including one on the sleeping car of the train, another when I stood with Pattinson and a few others and watched Witherspoon cavort with an elephant.

There is a chance that I will be seen on screen. But, being familiar with filmmaking, I understand that there is an even better chance that I will not be seen. Wait and see, I guess.


It was fun to meet and work with such talent, including director Francis Lawrence. Yet the thing that I found most impressive – as I always have – was the extraordinary work ethic of the crew.

The grips and gaffers – those responsible for rigging the lights, the electrical cables and supplying power from the generators to the set – truly garnered my respect.

Thanks to tabloids and gossip websites, much of the public believes filmmaking to be glamorous and glitzy. There are certainly aspects of it that are. But even more of it is hard, physical work.

I won’t soon forget the camera operator in the train sleeping car scene, having to get the shot with a handheld camera, doing it over and over again. Between each take, he collapsed on the floor, wheezed loudly and held his back, which had buckled under the weight of the camera. Sweat poured from his brow.

I also won’t forget the wardrobe department and working with costume designer Jacqueline West – another Oscar nominee – and their passion for their craft. A couple of days I arrived on set before 6 a.m. They were already there, waiting for me, preparing to put me in yet another ridiculous costume. Meticulous and motivated, they loved every minute of their work.

As a filmmaker myself, working on this project only confirmed what I have always known: filmmaking is not for sissies.

Behind the Robert Pattinsons, Reese Witherspoons and others is always a multitude of men and women who exude professionalism and redefine what it means to work hard. They are the ones whose names roll later in the credits, long after most have risen from their theater seats and gone home.

Without them, there would be no film, no story brought to life on a shimmering screen. I have spent a considerable amount of time on film sets but have always had a job to do. On this set, however, my time was spent mostly watching what others do – at the highest level.

On my last day of shooting, I realized that it was these people who I admired the most. They are the unsung heroes of the film, the ones that make it all possible. When this film is released, they will be long gone and working on another project – doing it all over again. I’ll be thinking about them and, perhaps, our paths will cross again.

Editor’s Note: A Campbellsville, Ky. native, Jonathan Moore is a writer and a filmmaker. He teaches filmmaking and screenwriting at Vanguard University in Orange County, Calif. He lives in Los Angeles.

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Posted on August 6, 2010, in A day on the set of WFE, Water for elephants and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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