Bitten by the bug

Published 3:55 pm Friday, September 25, 2009

Victoria Ashford, former director of the Helena Library, recently answered the open call for extras for the locally filmed movie ‘Lifted’ and spent eight days on the set with stars such as Trace Adkins and Ruben Studdard.

“It’s a great storyline about a young Alabama boy who comes to Birmingham to compete in an ‘American Idol’ style contest. I thought, why not have this new experience?” Ashford said.

This film, written to be filmed in Alabama, is the first to take advantage of the state’s new film industry incentives that offer filmmakers rebates on salaries paid to state residents and money spent here.

‘Lifted’ is directed by Lexi Alexander and produced by brothers Alan and Hugh Hunter of Birmingham’s Hunter Films. Along with actor Dash Mihok, the four last worked together in Birmingham seven years ago on the film, “Johnny Flynton.”

About 70 percent of the crew was local, including director of photography, David Bower.

“I was so impressed with Lexi and Dennis (Crow, asst. director) and the overall tone of decorum. It was peaceful and tranquil and everyone was respectful of each other, even though there were over 100 extras on the set, from age eight to 80,” Ashford said.

Studdard portrays Pastor Johnson, who encourages the young contestant, played by Magnolia Springs native Uriah Shelton, along the way.

“They filmed this scene from many different angles, and Ruben was having difficulty with a particular scripture he had to quote,” Ashford said. “Finally, they pasted his lines on my back, so I know I will at least be in that scene.”

Later, sitting in front of the main character and his father, Ashford knew it was imperative she remain still.

However, she began to feel a tickle in her throat. The tickle turned to a scratch and she knew her body needed to cough. She fought the impulse until tears ran down her face, trying to hold on for the call to cut.

At last the cough exploded and Ashford was completely embarrassed by having ruined the scene.

Preparing to leave, she was rescued by the make-up lady and given a Coke.

“No, no, you can’t go,” she was told. “They need your head!”

The movie was shot in just three weeks to meet the deadline for the Sundance Film Festival.

Ashford said she so enjoyed the experience that she has volunteered to help out with the 11th–annual Sidewalk Film Festival playing Sept. 25-27.

“I’m not saying I’m an actress, but if Hollywood calls, I’m answering,” Ashford said.

Laura Brookhart can be reached by e–mail at