Acting can be a career or an obsession, but
for Eric Kuntz it has turned out to be a really fun hobby.
Kuntz, a Pittsburgh native, has appeared in several movies filmed in
the area. “I always wanted to be in a movie,” he says. “I
thought it would be fun to meet some celebrities and learn how movies
are made. Now that I’ve had several roles, my motivation has changed.
When I think about showing these films to my kids who will someday be
able to share them with their kids, I feel part of something everlasting.”
Kuntz works Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and is off Monday through
Thursday at his regular job. Since most people his age have traditional
Monday through Friday jobs, their ability to fit into a shooting schedule
is more limited.
“I search lists of movies slated to be filmed in Pittsburgh, find
out who will be casting the film, and what parts are available. Sometimes,
there’s a lot of information, but production companies often keep
details about the film from the public,” Kuntz explains. “The
flexibility of my schedule has helped me move from crowd scenes to small
parts. The director decides who he wants in a particular scene. The
director for Concussion liked something about me and put me
in several scenes.
“Extras typically earn minimum wage," says
Kunst, "but they feed you well. On the set of Concussion,
the production company brought chefs with them from California, and
we ate like kings. Smaller parts and speaking roles pay better. I’m
having a lot of fun, but I have no illusions about becoming a movie
star. I’ve considered joining the Screen Actors’ Guild,
so I can pursue larger speaking roles one day.”
In addition to being an extra in several films, Kuntz has had small
credited roles in some major Hollywood productions. These roles often
require costume fittings before filming begins and a trip to hair and
makeup. He has also appeared in two television series, Mindhunter
and Insomnia. Kuntz was in the bar scene of the Russell Crowe/Amanda
Seyfried movie, Fathers and Daughters. He was also cast as
a jogger during a street scene as Seyfried’s character runs by.
In The Last Witch Hunter starring Vin Diesel, Elijah Wood and
Michael Caine, Kuntz played an audience member of the model show.
Kuntz extended his screen time in the Jake Gyllenhaal film Southpaw:
he played a law enforcement officer. During filming he got to know
Gyllenhaal’s stand-in for the movie. “You meet a lot of
interesting people during filming,” says Kuntz. “The more
you do this, the more certain faces seem to show up; you start to make
friends and look for them on other casting calls.”
He was in the Academy Award nominated film, Foxcatcher, starring
Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, and Vanessa Redgrave. Kuntz
was an extra in the gala scene for the speeches, and he was a member
of the SWAT team that took down Carell’s character, John E. DuPont,
at the end of the movie.
On the set of Foxcatcher
“Many actors prefer to stay in character during
filming and do not wish to be disturbed, so the extras and actors with
small roles are usually kept away from the lead actors by members of
the production staff,” Kuntz explains. “Because I had the
additional role as a SWAT team sniper, I was on camera with Steve Carell.
During shooting breaks, instead of returning to his trailer, he chatted
with us. He was very relaxed, friendly and down to earth which is surprising
considering the complex character he was playing.”
Kuntz was in several scenes of the Will Smith movie, Concussion.
It is his biggest movie role so far, but what he remembers most about
the experience is being on set with Will Smith. “Between takes,
Smith told jokes and kept everyone laughing. He was genuinely nice and
talked to the cast like we were old friends.”
The editing process can be disastrous for extras, but so far, Kuntz
has been lucky. Hours of film end up on the cutting room floor, and
your scene is history. For now, it’s a risk he is willing to take.
Fran Joyce is an author and co-publisher of This Awful/Awesome