FF extras make film debutsPublished 11:13am Monday, June 25, 2012 Updated 11:13am Monday, June 25, 2012
A third-floor hallway of the Fergus Falls Kirkbride building’s east wing teemed with people Sunday morning, sporting pale faces and open wounds. A camera crew was there to capture it all.
But these people were not the ghosts some believe haunt the Regional Treatment Center grounds. Instead, they were approximately 100 volunteers who signed up to be extras in “Geist,” the movie currently filming in the Kirkbride.
On the first full day of shooting with the film’s star, actor and Johnny Depp impersonator Danny Lopez, the “Geist” crew filmed a spooky sequence called “The Hallway of Lost Souls” – or “The Hallway of the Damned” by some area residents. Lopez’s character led a few frightened children down the hallway as the extras – playing people killed inside the movie’s fictional mental asylum – closed in behind them.
Dalton resident Julie Genz was one of the first people Lopez encountered during his walk, her red hair contrasting with the pale makeup she applied to look deceased. Genz was a last-minute addition to “Geist’s” hallway scene; she originally only came to bring the daughter of a friend to the filming. Then she saw some extra hospital gowns, so she slipped one on and went upstairs.
She’s glad she did, if only because she used to work in the Kirkbride’s Hursh unit until the building’s mental health operations ceased in 2006.
“I love this place,” she said, adding that it was great to see the inside of her former workplace. “I only wish it wasn’t getting so run down.”
Chad Canfield and Michelle Tuff work on “Geist’s” crew, but the fiancés jumped at the chance to get some screen time as well.
“It’s really great to be a part of something like this,” said Tuff, who said that seeing the process of movie-making firsthand was very educational.
Alex Vasquez auditioned for the film in December and heard about the call for extras later.
“(I) just kept up with it, and I thought, ‘Why not?’” he said.
He praised the “Geist” filmmakers’ decision to involve the residents in the movie, saying that the extras sequence and the filming as a whole feels like a real community event.
“I think it’s going to help with the petition (people) have to keep the buildings standing,” he said.
Lopez had nothing but good things to say about Fergus Falls’ hospitality and the extras’ performances.
“For a small town, I’ve never seen so many good actors,” he said.
Lopez flew into Minnesota from a recent filming in Mexico city, where he played a character he described as “an Aztec warrior who’s like a cross between Jack Sparrow and Willy Wonka” – two Depp characters Lopez is sometimes called on to impersonate.
Lopez signed on for the movie because he liked the script and he felt the architecture of the RTC would provide a creepy, dark ambiance to the film.
“I did some research on the facility,” he said, adding, “I thought it would have a great atmosphere, and it does.”