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Lights! Camera! Patience!
Future filmmaker gets an up close look at moviemaking
Preston by Logan Masters
Preston Cox shows off the makeup for the head wound he has for his part in Robert Redford's "The Conspirator."

For Preston Cox, this was the chance of a lifetime.

A Georgia Southern University student, Effingham County native and budding filmmaker, Cox said he learned a lot about how a really good movie is filmed. He appeared in two different scenes for the Robert Redford film, “The Conspirator,” which is being filmed in Savannah and Effingham County.

Cox said he had always had a desire to be the person behind the camera. He got started shooting short advertisements for the Wesley Foundation at Georgia Southern, a campus ministry. That led to his working with some friends in the production business.

Even now, Cox is working on a screenplay that he hopes to have ready for next spring’s film festival in Statesboro.

There was an open casting call for “The Conspirator” at a Savannah mall, but Cox lives in Statesboro.

“So it was kind of out of the question to go there at the time,” he said. “A friend of mine sent me an e-mail and he said they’re looking for skinny men with facial hair and it was just an open casting call. So I just sent in an e-mail with my pictures and my height and my weight, and they called me back.”

He said because of his experiences making short films for the film festival, he understood that this would take a lot of patience and time.
Cox said the film production company called him about a week before shooting and had him come in for a costume fitting. They took the extras in two or three at a time where they were fitted for a costume and then sent to makeup. Photos and measurements were taken, and then they were sent home until the day of the shoot.

He said he got to the set on the Zoller farm early in order to see how things were organized.

“Once all the extras were there, they sent us through hair and makeup,” Cox said. “After we got hair and makeup, we were shuffled onto a transport and taken out to the scene, to the location where they were shooting. That is where we picked up props – rifles, canteens, haversacks, belts – things like that. They took us out to a field, positioned us individually where they wanted us.

“Because I had a bullet wound in my head from makeup, they positioned me toward the front so it was really good to have that front row seat of all the action, what was actually going on with the main actors. I laid down there and picked a position or pose that looked like I’d actually been shot in the head and died right there. I just waited. I think the hardest part of it was just remembering what pose to get back into.”

But a movie scene isn’t done just once, Cox explained.

“Not only do they have to do the same shot maybe 15 or 16 times, but it was from different angles,” he said. “You have to be in the same position and listen to the same lines being repeated over and over again.”

After four hours of lying in the sun face-up, Cox said he thought he could do the job of the lead actor — in this case, Justin Long, best known for his role in the “I’m a Mac” commercials. Cox said Long was very personable and was “just a normal guy doing a job.”

In his second scene of the day, Cox portrayed a soldier entering a room to help make an arrest.

“I helped to arrest George Atzerodt — busted into his room and yanked him out of bed,” he said. “That scene was supposed to be a day scene but was filmed at night.”

He said the lighting really made the shot believable.

“I was supposed to be the officer in that shot. I ended up not being the officer and just being the guy who pointed the rifle at George Atzerodt’s face when they were pulling him out of bed,” Cox said.

He said that scene was a lot more fun to be in than the battle scene filmed that morning.

There were about 45 production people involved on the set and about 200 people altogether involved on that day of shooting here in Effingham County. For the movie, that scene will probably be about two or three minutes long, Cox said.

“It gives me a greater appreciation for a really good movie,” he said.

Cox said he’s not actively looking to get into the movie business right now but that he is waiting on opportunities.

“If there was an opportunity, I’d more than likely step into it wholeheartedly,” he said.