As the spokesman for Frankfort Police, Maj. Fred Deaton usually fields questions from reporters.
On Monday, he switched roles and donned a press badge that once belonged to a woman named Whitney, a blue blazer and a gray wool fedora with a small red feather tucked into the band.
He was, for all intents and purposes, a 1970s-era reporter at Keeneland during the filming of “Secretariat,” the Disney movie depicting Secretariat’s 1973 Triple Crown championship.
“Do you like my notes?” he asked as he flipped through pages and pages of scribbling in a small reporter’s notebook.
“I think I’ve got this reporting thing down,” he joked.
Deaton – who used a vacation day to film – arrived on set at 6:30 a.m. and quickly learned that filmmaking is a tedious process.
“I did see that they’re meticulous throughout the whole process,” he said. “There are so many aspects to this that people don’t really think about. You get there early, you get into costume, and you have to go through scene preparation and then the number of takes they go through during filming. It’s incredible.”
Deaton was used in several crowd scenes and in a crowded interview scene with the owner of Sham, Secretariat’s archrival. Sham came within two-and-a-half lengths of beating Secretariat in both the 1973 Kentucky Derby and 1973 Preakness.
“Secretariat” director Randall Wallace took about 14 takes with each scene, Deaton said.
“It’s eye-opening if you’ve never done it before,” Deaton said. “It gives you an appreciation for what they do.”
Deaton did not go to the casting call for extras earlier this month. His wife, Gayle, and son, Jacob Coulter, went to the Lexington casting call and submitted pictures of themselves and Deaton.
He was called back not long afterward and offered the role of a reporter. Ironically, Gayle, a former State Journal reporter, was not called back.
While the casting issue did not cause a rift in the Deaton household, Gayle has taken some lighthearted shots at her husband.
“Oh yeah, I get that a bit,” Deaton said, chuckling. “She has all the experience as a reporter, and I have absolutely none. But she’s adorable, and I love her.”
There’s a chance that she may get a callback, Deaton said. Filming will continue today and Wednesday, and some people will be called for those days.
Deaton returned to film again today and may get an additional scene or two Wednesday. Extras have to call a hotline number at the end of each day to find out if they’ll be needed for more filming.
The day ended at 8 p.m. for Deaton, which translated to a 13-and-a-half hour work day.
“It was a long day,” he said. “We had a little downtime here and there, but most of the day was busy. People were telling me where to stand, what to do, how to react in scenes.”
Even with that amount of time on set, Deaton isn’t holding his breath to see his face on the big screen.
“I really have no idea,” he said. “The majority of people that’ve done this before said the majority of the film won’t make it off the cutting room floor.”
Deaton doesn’t know how much he’ll get paid, but he guesses it’ll be close to minimum wage, which is $7.25. He filled out a time sheet after filming concluded Monday.
For him, the experience is pay enough.
“That’s basically the reason I did it,” he said. “I haven’t experienced anything like this before, and it’s something I wanted to do.”
“Secretariat” is slated to hit theaters in late 2010 and stars Diane Lane as Secretariat’s owner Penny Chenery, Dylan Walsh as her husband, Scott Glenn as a southern aristocrat who loses Secretariat in a coin toss and John Malkovich as the horse’s trainer.