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LibbyMt.com > News > September 2008 > Local performer finds steady work in Hollywood

Shanda Jennings. Photo by Kootenai Valley Record.
Shanda Jennings

Kootenai Valley Record. Photo by Kootenai Valley Record.
Kootenai Valley Record
Local performer finds steady work in Hollywood
by Brent Shrum, Kootenai Valley Record
September 25, 2008

Local moviegoers who watch the thriller "Eagle Eye," scheduled for release this Friday and starring Shia LeBeouf and Michelle Monaghan, may want to keep an eye out for a familiar face.

Libby’s Shanda Jennings, who has appeared in numerous local stage productions, worked on the film as an extra last winter, playing the role of a congresswoman. Assuming her scene makes it into the final cut, Jennings may be seen diving for cover when gunfire breaks out in the U.S. Capitol.

"I ended up getting such bad shin splints from that, so I said if they cut my scene of me flying across the aisle, I’m going to be upset," Jennings said.

Jennings fulfilled a lifelong dream to be in the movies when she packed up and headed for Hollywood last November. With no connections, she found herself a tiny apartment and got an agent, who took photos of her with as many different "looks" as she could come up with. The photos are shown to casting directors who use them to hire extras for background work in movies and television shows.

"I have a biker chick, I have a hippie, your typical housewife/soccer mom, I have a homeless look," Jennings said.

Jennings didn’t have any trouble finding work. Over the course of six months, she got jobs on the set of upcoming films including "The Soloist" with Robert Downey Jr., in which she plays a homeless crackhead; "Seven Pounds" with Will Smith, where she’s a mall shopper; "Race to Witch Mountain," in which attends a UFO convention wearing a bright red wig, and Jim Carrey’s "Yes Man," where she plays several different parts.

"I worked on it for four days," she said. "None of them were under 11 hours."

It’s not unheard of for extras to graduate to speaking parts. Jennings saw it happen to a friend while working on "Eagle Eye." When it was discovered that the actress selected to play the speaker of the House had a heavy accent, Jennings’ friend got the nod to take on the part, along with instant membership in the actors’ union and a share of the movie’s future earnings.

"They gave her a trailer right away," Jennings said.

Jennings’ biggest break came on the set of "Fall of Hyperion," an action movie in which meteors strike the earth.

"They ended up putting me in the front row because I could fall really good," she said.

In addition to her movie work, Jennings appeared in several television productions, including "Monk," "E.R." and "CSI:NY."

Jennings plans to go back to Hollywood later this fall and work there again until spring, then return to Libby to continue directing plays and promoting membership at the Memorial Center. Compared to her work at the Memorial Center, Hollywood is like a vacation, Jennings said.

"You show up on the set, they feed you, it’s all catered," she said. "Then you play cards."

Editor’s Note: See the September 22, 2008 edition of the Kootenai Valley Record for the printed version of this story. The Kootenai Valley Record publishes once a week, on Monday, in Libby, Montana. They are a locally owned community newspaper, located at 403 Mineral Avenue in Libby. For in-county and out-of-county subscription information, call 406-293-2424, or e-mail kvrecord@gmail.com.

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