The Mile Ground movie image: a man kissing a woman's neck.

4 Lessons The Mile Ground Movie Taught Me About Catering, Film Making, and Kindness

When I first learned about The Mile Ground movie, I quickly donated to the crowd-funding effort for the project. Because it was written by my friend and Morgantown native Jessica Shannon. And because it deals with the opioid crisis–a major threat to my beloved West Virginia.

Shannon’s vision is for a film that “…uniquely examines loss, the insidious truths surrounding opioid addiction, and the unexpected journey that leads one woman on her final search for redemption.”

I helped with The Mile Ground movie because I want to help West Virginia—and help draw attention to our state’s current drug crisis.

It’s also why I volunteered to provide a meal for The Mile Ground crew when they came to Morgantown to make the movie.

As the song goes, “First I was afraid. I was petrified.” But then I got to thinking, I love to cook. I love to support people operating in their giftings. Plus, I happen to know lots of people with really big hearts.

In the process of feeding the film crew, I learned some pretty cool stuff.

Lesson #1: How to be an extra in a Hollywood film

  • Text the casting director a headshot (a cell phone selfie with no filter works just fine.) and then wait for her call.
  • Or, show up on the set when you see a Facebook message along the lines of: “We need extras NOW.”
  • Be sure to wear clothing and shoes without logos. A friend told me this is done to avoid “product displacement,” which is kind of the opposite of product placements where brands pay to have their product deliberately shown. It’s easier to avoid logos than get approval from the companies to show them. It must be a big deal because they repeated that requirement several times.
  • In a restaurant scene, you will probably be told to act like you’re eating, but don’t. Pretend like you’re drinking, but don’t. Appear as if you’re having a conversation, but don’t. And when you cut your hog jowls, do it quietly please.
  • Be absolutely sure to silence your cell phone. Otherwise, you will be significantly embarrassed when someone texts you, “Are you REALLY going to be in a movie?” and your phone pings loudly in the middle of an intense scene. How do I know this? Guess.
  • Pay attention to, marvel really, at the cast and crew’s professionalism, skill, and endurance. What looks glamorous and effortless on the big screen is actually the result of very hard work and extremely long hours.

Lesson #2: How to feed an LA cast and film crew 

  • Once the tentative date and time for feeding the crew is established, ask for special dietary needs and preferences.
  • Create a menu that is yummy and filling but not overly ambitious prep-wise. Items that can be made a day or two in advance are ideal.
  • Cook from scratch as many items as possible. Chances are, the group has been eating a lot of pizza, pasta, and processed food.
  • For the same reason as above, include lots of fruits and vegetables.
  • Offer local specialties. Our group served pepperoni rolls—a Best Virginia staple—from Terra Café. Tutto Gelato Cafe donated a pan of lemon gelato, lemon being Jessica’s favorite flavor.
  • Label your food. I hand-lettered (and cartooned) identification cards for each item so people knew what they were eating. You could also provide ingredient lists if you were dealing with a lot of dietary concerns. Thankfully, we were not.
  • Consider providing some healthy to-go options. When Jessica told me her breakfast one morning was a handful of chips, we set out granola bars, bags of trail mix, and mixed nuts.
  • Be flexible. There’s a strong chance the time for the meal could change a couple of times, depending on what happens on set that day.

Lesson #3: How to bless a Hollywood star (or anyone, really)

  • Practice random acts of kindness—If you know where your star(s) is staying, drop off a care package (or two) at his/her place of lodging. Beverages, healthy snacks, Sephora samples, and chocolate are good choices to help them practice self-care in a town that’s not their own.
  • Make a house call—If you know the star is an animal-lover, offer a 20-minute visit with a docile pet for snuggling purposes. To Jessica’s delight, Coal Pepper, our plush boy bunny, happily cuddled with her one morning.
  • Listen up—Pay attention to the conversation on set or inside the actors’ quarters (provided you’re invited in). If you hear of a problem, consider how you might be able to solve it for the group. When I heard of a problem with film crew housing, I posted a request for alternative lodging on my neighborhood’s Facebook page. At least four families offered to host film personnel. It was really touching. A few days later, when a number of extras could not participate due to illness, I Facebook-sourced replacements, including myself and a friend.

 Lesson #4: How the Golden Rule applies on a movie set (and in life in general)

The day after the big feed, I recognized a common thread in the interactions my friends and I experienced with The Mile Ground film cohort. We’d been upholding “The Golden Rule,” doing unto others as we would have them do unto us.

What would I want to see, do, eat, and experience if I had to spend three weeks working 3,000 miles from home?

I’d want to interact with friendly and helpful people. I’d want to taste the local cuisine. And I’d want to have few problems, and have those problems solved quickly.

We did our best to make those wishes come true for the people making a movie about our state and its current crisis.

I believed in The Mile Ground project long before it came to town. I believe in it even more after getting to be a small part of it.

I’d like to thank Jessica Shannon and those connected to The Mile Ground project. It might’ve seemed like we were simply serving you and your crew while you were here in our state, but I think we were really kind of helping ourselves. So many of us have lost someone as a result of opioids or heroin, and we appreciate the attention you’re drawing to the cause.


What about you?  Have you ever been involved with a movie? Or, and this is much sadder, have you lost loved ones due to the opioid crisis?

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