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SWARTZFAGER — The opportunity and cost of being a Mississippi movie star

I returned to the office from the Christmas holidays on Jan. 6 to an email stating the producers of a major motion picture were filming in Jackson and needed extras on Jan. 7 for a concert scene in Paris circa 1971.

Selena Swartzfager

Selena Swartzfager

My brain immediately clicked into “opportunity cost” mode. My desire for stardom and fame had me thinking it would be okay to take another vacation day on Tuesday in order to check this item off my bucket list.

The opportunity cost for me was one day of vacation, not getting caught up on emails right away, and not completing a couple of items on my to-do list. “You only live once” I told myself and sent my headshot with clothing size and measurements to the booking agent.

Within hours I had been booked with a reporting time on Tuesday of 9:30 am.

My son had not returned to college yet and I decided to talk him into signing up, as well. It was important to him that this was a paying gig at $8/hour, which was more than he would be making sitting on the couch at home. The opportunity cost for him was simply not being able to sleep late. In fact, he would be earning money while checking this item off his bucket list.

Two people, same experience, totally different costs. While I had a great time dancing to “Get On Up” throughout the day, I couldn’t help but feel like I was losing money. My choice to become a movie star involved costs.

The auditorium full of people were responding to incentives in predictable ways. The young people were there to be paid for an honest day’s work while the older people were there for the experience.

We were all there voluntarily and were therefore gaining from this trade of our time and talent for money and experience. My consequences in the future included working late for the rest of the week to get caught up in the office. Would I make the same choice again given the chance? You bet I would! Seeing the movie-making process in action was enlightening. I received a first-hand experience in how the creative economy works in Mississippi.

This was one of many days the filming took place in Mississippi.

Each of those days required the injection of money into the local economy through the hiring of local actors/extras, rental of space, the purchase of food and hotel rooms for the crew, and transportation of extras via tour buses.

At the end of the day we were served a “lunch” of pizza at 4:30 pm. Two weeks later a check came in the mail for 7.5 hours of work at $8 an hour, less FICA.

Rich in dollars, no.

Rich in experience, yes.

» Selena Swartzfager is president of the Mississippi Council for Economic Education. She can be reached at swartsc@millsaps.edu.


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