Cast or crew
Buffalonians are playing their parts, however small
From top left: Josie Divincenzo, Bob Bozek, Eric Witkowski, and Roselyn Kasmire
DiVincenzo and Bozek by Luke Copping; Witkowski and Kasmire by kc kratt
On the set of A Quiet Place Part II, John Krasinski’s efforts to get a key shot are being thwarted by a dog.
The moment, part of a larger scene at a Little League baseball game, involves the dog barking at some menace in the sky that’ll be added in post-production but, of course, the canine isn’t cooperating. Eventually, the director gives up and tries again the following day.
As luck would have it, local salesman Mark Nowak has a front-row seat to the whole affair—literally. As an extra seated next to the pup, he has to stay in character, staring at the hazard overhead in case he ends up in the final take. “There’s a lot that goes on and details that never get seen, especially in the bigger-budget movies. As an extra, you see all of this,” Nowak says. “It’s not glamorous, it’s not easy, it takes a lot of time, but people do it—because they like doing it.”
Over the past several years, more and more Hollywood movies have filmed in town, granting local actors—and crew members—more opportunities to showcase their skills as part of a major production. Some of these artists work full-time in film, television, and theater. Others maintain careers in different fields and use these gigs as a creative outlet and to explore their passion for film.
Long, rewarding days
Nowak has been an extra on such productions as The True Adventures of Wolfboy, Marshall, The Best Man Holiday, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. He says extras may spend the entire day on set, spending long hours waiting in designated areas as the crew sets up various angles and scenes. As a result, extras get to know one another and may even reconnect over multiple shoots.
“You get that alumni feeling with people,” Nowak says. “All of a sudden, we’ve got five days together and we’re sitting talking about our families or our jobs or the movie. You become friends.” The long days also give those with an interest in filmmaking a chance to peek behind the curtain and observe the inner workings of the production or chat with the crew. “When I’m on the set, I’m doing the same thing, seeing the technical aspect of it,” Nowak says. “That’s my personal interest, the how-to and the why.”
For actors with lines or featured extra parts, the director already knows exactly which scene these actors will be in, making their call times more precise. Roselyn Kasmire, a special education teacher and children’s book author, has had several featured extra parts. She was the First Lady in The First Purge, and distracted one of the main characters during a jail scene in Marshall. “I have been acting since college, and it’s really great to get the experience of being on Hollywood sets,” Kasmire says. “It’s great networking, it’s great meeting new people, and it’s great to actually see how the set works, how the director works, and the different processes of the actors.”
As a Buffalo firefighter for more than fifteen years, Eric Witkowski knew he’d retire young and started working in film to jumpstart an eventual second career. Over the past several years, he’s been a background extra on films like Emelie and Cold Brook and a featured extra in The First Purge and Marshall, as well as part of many crews, working in transportation, security, or as an on-set medic. He’s even traveled for projects, spending days or weeks out of town on the set of Creed, 21 Bridges, and Concussion.
“My favorite film to work on was Creed,” he says. “As Michael B. Jordan was working in the ring with the trainer, Sly [Stallone] walks in and watches him for a few moments before getting in the ring himself and showing Michael the movements. I grew up watching Rocky, so that was surreal to see.” Witkowski cautions, however: “I think people think being in the film industry is all a highlight,” he says. “It’s a job though, and a lot of people work very long hours under tough conditions, in weather that’s not conducive to smiling. And the pay is, at times, dependent on the budget of the film. You’ve got to really hustle if you want to do well.”
Josie DiVincenzo has been hustling in the film industry for more than twenty years. The Buffalo native moved to Los Angeles to attend graduate school and eventually stayed for more than a decade, amassing credits on hit shows like Desperate Housewives, CSI, ER, Friends, 24, and Beverly Hills, 90210.
In 2010, she returned to Buffalo to play Lady Macbeth in the all-female cast of Macbeth at Shakespeare in Delaware Park. At the time, the local film industry was small, but it grew quickly. “It’s just seemed to be one thing after another,” says DiVincenzo, who recently wrapped a one-woman show at Jewish Repertory Theatre. “It just proves that word of mouth really works when it’s based on a city that has a lot to offer, not only in locations but also in talent and people opening their doors.”
Meanwhile, DiVincenzo’s artistic career has continued to thrive locally, on stage, on screen, and in the classroom as an adjunct professor of acting at Niagara University. On Marshall, she worked as a scenic painter to get the Central Terminal ready for its close-up, and played Ruthie, a legal secretary. Later, on Bashira, an unreleased horror film, she portrayed the mother of Andy, played by Liam Aiken (A Series of Unfortunate Events). “He and I connected so well,” she recalls. “It was example of two actors’ chemistry coming together and being more concerned with what was happening in the moments between the characters than anybody’s credits or career.”
Bob Bozek, another local actor, looks for those “magic moments” too—times when he loses himself in the character and the scene. Bozek discovered his love for acting in 2006, after taking a class at Studio Arena to improve his public speaking and interpersonal skills for his full-time career in IT. Afterward, he auditioned successfully for a couple local theater productions. Since then, he’s appeared in many plays and had background or speaking roles in several films, including as a security guard in Cold Brook and as the lead character’s boyfriend in Emelie. He studied at Second City in Toronto and got a master class of sorts on Marshall, when he, playing a juror, observed stars Chadwick Boseman, James Cromwell, Kate Hudson, and Sterling K. Brown in action.
“Watching Sterling Brown’s scene from the jury box inspired me to improve even more and get better,” Bozek says. “I’m just really thankful that all these films have come to Buffalo because they’ve given me a great creative outlet that fifteen years ago I didn’t even know I’d have. It’s enriched my life.”