Interview with Christina Coffman
When Christina Coffman was up for the position of stand-in for lead actor Jennifer Lawrence in the upcoming film The Hunger Games, she contacted Stand-In Central.
Soon after, she booked the job. The gig proved to be a wonderful experience for her. I was excited to learn that Stand-In Central influenced her as she got the hang of standing in for the first time. I was also excited to read something Christina later wrote me: “I have shown the other stand-ins Stand-In Central as well and we love it!”
My interview with Christina Coffman is below. If you’re a fan of The Hunger Games, you’re going to love it for a little bit of behind-the-scenes its star’s stand-in provides. The U.S. release of The Hunger Games is March 23rd, 2012. Check it out!
- The Editor
SIC: What’s your name and what do you do?
CC: Hello! My name is Christina Coffman, and I am a sophomore in college studying acting. I lived in Maryland most of my life doing community theater, but after graduating high school my family moved to South Carolina, which is where I currently reside.
SIC: You stood in for Jennifer Lawrence, who plays “Katniss” in the highly anticipated film The Hunger Games. Was this your first time standing in on a film? Have you stood in on any films since?
CC: Yes, this was my first time standing in on a film. Immediately after wrapping The Hunger Games I was asked to photo-double for Isabelle Fuhrman in the film The Healer but since I already had a prior obligation, I was only able to commit to working on that a short time. I hope to get back into standing in again soon, though!
SIC: How did you land your job as Jennifer Lawrence’s stand-in?
CC: I had an audition callback in Asheville, North Carolina, that lasted about five hours. Jennifer, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth were there, but most of the time was spent with the casting director, ADs, and the other girls they were considering. At the end we had individual interviews and I was the first one to interview. Then they sent me home. Early the next morning I got a call saying I had the job!
SIC: Cool, Christina! Were you also hired to photo-double?
CC: Yes! On the days that I photo-doubled, they had to spray my braid to make it darker since my hair is naturally a bit lighter than Jennifer’s. Additionally, she is a few inches taller than me so I had to constantly remind myself to stand tall. I was even able to photo-double as “District 4 Tribute Girl” one day.
SIC: Working on The Hunger Games was a demanding project. You were working in the woods of Asheville and at high elevations, too. You also shot in a cigarette factory. What kinds of demands did you face?
CC: We worked sunrise to sunset six days a week in some of the most isolated and beautiful forests of North Carolina. Base camp was often a good 10-20-minute drive back down the mountain so we had Porta-Johns closer to set but sometimes there just isn’t a chance to break away so you either wait or go behind a tree!
The Cornucopia and Reaping scenes were filmed on very hot days under the beating sun. We also had several major downpours–it amazes me how there was always a Plan B for these frequent storms. Sometimes they would put a tarp over the set, add some lights, and continue filming! Watching these scenes you wouldn’t be able to tell it was still raining a few feet away.
Not only was the weather an obstacle, but we had some encounters with bears. They were never much of a threat, though–they seemed more afraid of us then we were of them, thank goodness. Snakes were also common, so there was always a snake wrangler on set. After lunch one day at the Cornucopia I was looking for snakes with a few of the actors. We found some, picked them up, and didn’t get bit! So I guess they weren’t poisonous snakes … none of us really knew!
SIC: I wouldn’t advise toying with snakes! But it sounds as if they were really prepared. Could you have prepared any better for what you encountered?
CC: The main thing I could have done to prepare better for the wilderness was to wear preventive poison ivy spray. We were surrounded by poison ivy and poison oak all of the time. I never had poison ivy in my life so I assumed I was not allergic, but the last week we were in the woods I got a rash all over my calves. It is better to be safe than sorry.
The old cigarette factory was a big change after being in the woods but there wasn’t really anything I had to do to “prepare” for that.
SIC: How frequently did you work, and how did you find out about your calltimes?
CC: Katniss was in almost every scene, so I worked 81 out of the 84 days, which was generally sunup to sundown–or vice versa for the night shoots. At wrap, I would get a callsheet to know when to come in the next day.
SIC: Katniss runs and uses a bow and arrow in the film. What kinds of physical demands were asked of you as a stand-in on The Hunger Games?
CC: I didn’t have to know too much about archery other than how to hold the bow and arrow. As for running; there was a lot of that! There was also running through fiery areas, but I was only allowed so close due to the danger of it. Jennifer and her stunt double, Renae Moneymaker, were actually trained for the fireballs’ flying inches from their face.
SIC: Was standing in on the film very different than what you expected? Very similar?
CC: I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t even fully understand my job title till the first day on set!
Everyone else was topnotch and award-winning while I had never been on a real movie set before. So I was convinced: I am going to get fired. Don’t get fired. Don’t get fired. Don’t get fired. It turned out every one was super nice. There wasn’t any of that “Hollywood snobbery” that one might expect, which was really humbling.
SIC: Looking back on your first stand-in experience, how has the experience affected you?
CC: The overall experience has affected me greatly. As an aspiring actress, I learned more on this film than any school could teach me. Shadowing Jennifer Lawrence for eighty-plus days taught me so much. She really knows what she is doing! That goes the same for Josh and all of the other actors too. The talent was incredible.
SIC: Given your experience, what kinds of advice would you give to a stand-in should she find herself standing in for a lead in a physically demanding project like this one?
CC: Be ready for anything. Be willing to do anything. Really. The directors and crew will appreciate you so much.
Having already read The Hunger Games book, I knew that my athletic abilities would come in handy. If you can know ahead of time what will be demanded physically, then you can prepare yourself. Action movies have a lot going on so be ready to run, climb, jump over logs, swim, lay in mud for an hour and who knows what else. I personally loved this stuff!
SIC: North Carolina provides subsidies for productions that shoot in the state, making it a popular location in which to shoot a film. How does a person interested in standing in in North Carolina land a stand-in job?
CC: North Carolina is indeed becoming a popular location to film. If you want to be a stand-in, I suggest you build a good rapport with a casting agency. Do extra work or anything that will stand out on your résumé! Keep in mind that being responsible, consistent, mature, and reliable is so important to ever landing a stand-in job.
SIC: Anything else?
CC: Yes! About halfway through the shoot assistant director Aldric Porter put me on the walkie system. It turned out to be an efficient idea, especially for figuring out the blocking during far shots so we didn’t have to yell across a field. This made communication fantastic! By the end I would just know based on the rhythm of things when second team would be needed without anyone having to call it. Also, it allowed me to help out the PAs with lockups when I wasn’t needed standing in!
SIC: By the way, The Hunger Games is becoming very popular. Would you consider yourself a fan of the story?
CC: “Fan” would be an understatement. I absolutely love it! It is brutal but so intriguing. I read the series several years before I knew a movie would be made and it immediately became my favorite. I even dressed up as Katniss for Halloween when I was seventeen–Haha! Kind of embarrassing when I tell people now, but you can imagine how exciting it was for me to be a part of this film!
SIC: I can tell, Christina! Thanks for sharing your story!
CC: Sure thing!
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