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On The Set: Pierre extras in filming of ‘Winter War’ movie

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Fifty people registered to be acting extras in what would be only a few scenes of the movie “Winter War,” which was filmed Tuesday in the basement of a building in downtown Pierre. Approximately 90% were from Pierre.

According to Trinity Schuetzle, production coordinator for Schuetzle Company Productions, 47 of the extras confirmed they would be on location. Thirty-seven showed up. “Probably all, or a vast majority, were in front of the camera,” Schuetzle said. Of these, approximately 50% will probably be discernible in the final cutting. Some of these extras, if they looked just right for a specific few seconds during the scene, were given a line to speak.

Trinity’s husband, Luke Schuetzle grew up in Pierre and is the director of the movie, as well as one of the lead actors.

The extras were filmed on Tuesday in the basement of an empty storefront on the corner of Pierre Street and Dakota Avenue.

The basement worked well, being transformed into the above-ground ruins of a stone building that was being used as a medic center during World War II. Waiting in uniforms and makeup, surrounded by authentic props and modern movie equipment, they paid attention when the assistant director yelled, “All right everybody, masks off, put them in your pockets, and make sure the strings are not hanging out. Scene 32, take three. Mark. Action.”

Getting any type of a larger role depends on how well one connects with people in the industry, and on dependability.

“When Luke (her husband and the movie’s director) needs somebody, he needs them to show up,” Schuetzle said.

These extras were volunteers, as they received no pay.

“We do feed them, and they can get T-shirts and posters from our last movie,” Schuetzle said.

To be an extra, Heidi Doe took vacation time, drove to Pierre and paid for her own room and board. She heard about the extra role from Trinity.

“You hear of an opening by word of mouth, who you know,” Doe said.

She had been an extra in a scene in the Schuetzle Productions’ “Dust of War” filmed in a quarry east of Pierre many years ago.

“It’s fun. The worst day I’ve had on set beats the best day anywhere else,” Doe added.

Playing a minor character, Rebkah Boyer, was originally from Pierre and has returned. She reaches out to people and production companies, using connections and relationships. She said in films, unlike in live theater, actors do not memorize the entire script. Their overall script is very familiar, and the scenes to be filmed the next day are studied very well. Boyer does not have an agent. She said that a movie uses ‘roll-on’ rehearsals where blocking, lighting and a few dry rehearsals are done moments before shooting, all in real-time. “In theory, it’s a few people working very hard to get everything done,” Boyer said.

Playing a different minor character, Brittany Benjamin said any cast shoot is day-to-day. Film is so different from stage. Participants can’t fully know the dialogue until the previous day, she said. To get selected, one needs experience; needs to be on a set, take acting classes, get an agent. But there are plenty of things a person can do without an agent; go online, and be willing to do the gamut of things that need to be done before production. Benjamin auditioned a long time ago, but showed up for this scene just before shooting. “Once you are on set, you get to know people right away, and come away as friends,” Benjamin said.

Andrew Stecker is the movie’s second assistant director and the actor playing Doc Anderson. Stecker said his character’s filming started before COVID-19 hit, and he had to keep the same haircut and facial hair for when filming resumed. Paul Gliarmis, assistant director, is originally from Sioux Falls, but now lives in Seattle. His research makes him an authority on the WWII rifles and carbines which were commonly carried by privates or officers. Most of the available props, uniforms, and equipment are stored in Pierre.

“Winter War” stars Billy Zane (“Titanic” and “Sniper”), who was not in Pierre for these scenes. It also stars Tom Berenger (“Platoon” and “Sniper”), who was in the earlier movie Schuetzle Production “Battle of the Bulge: Wunderland.” Berenger finished his shooting at the Norbeck House in Pierre, then left to join the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

Trinity Schuetzle said the movie could be out on DVD as early as November, and should eventually be available through Walmart and at the local Redbox.

The list of extras includes Earl Holben, Stevi Spears, John Ullmann, Heidi Doe, Kathleen Timberman, Ron Strait, Bill Lammon, Levi Zuber, Holly Zuber, Dara Ness, Brody Ness, Bridgir Ness, April McKnight, Jasmine Frost, Jessica Holt, Tanya Lieberman, Josh Lieberman, Denise Gehring, Paige Gehring, Gauge Gehring, Gunner Gehring, Brent Holland, Jen Winter, Mechiya Prettyweasel, Megan Bertsch, Amanda Ludemann, Matt Hunhoff, Liam McManus, Debbie Minter, Shante Black Bird, Rusty Lee Schulz Jr., Austin Gabriel, Hunter Curtis, Jason Gabriel, Tina Adamson, Trever Adamson, Payton Forney, Haylee Hauck, Elias Whaley, Rita Tredal, Libby Sherer, Tara Huber, Michael Bergerson, Krissy Schultz, Aaron Haynes, Tom Jones, Matt Eberhard, and Matthew Eberhard.

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