At Home With Hollywood
When he settled into a secure, nine-to-five job, Mark Boyd’s dream of stage and stardom never died. But at times, the pilot light barely stayed on.
The Grand Ledge mans' circuitous professional journey has taken him from performer to medical malpractice claims specialist and back again. Now, thanks to the state’s insurgent film industry, the 49-year-old Grand Ledge performer has tapped into a pipeline that is illuminating the area’s untapped cinematic talents.
Boyd landed a brief speaking part in the Drew Barrymore
-directed roller derby film Whip It!
, released in late 2009. He’s also an extra in the upcoming, shot-in-Michigan feature Betty Anne Waters
, starring Hilary Swank
, and has a voice-over role in an animated children's film.
While state lawmakers continue to haggle over the merits of tax incentives used to lure filmmakers to the state, the surge in Michigan-shot productions has undoubtedly reignited the fortunes of performers like Boyd.
“Many, many day players locally have gotten work, and many roles are two, three, or four deep from which to choose,” says Ken Droz, Michigan Film Office
“A great example was Betty Anne Waters
, which I believe had 29 speaking parts filled by Michigan actors, out of 45-50 total. Producers have been quite surprised, and pleased, because they don't have to fly people in and pay for housing, too.” Long Way Around
In February 2008, Boyd, a divorced father of two, found himself downsized from his job as a medical malpractice claims specialist. What would be a sour moment in most lives became an unlikely case of human resources-inspired euphoria.
“I just wanted to thank them,” says Boyd, who majored in advertising at the University of Oklahoma
. “It was so liberating. I just wanted to say, 'Where do I sign to get out of here, so I can go and do what I want to do with the rest of my life?'
“I realized what I looked at as security for so many years really isn't. Here I was, coming off a 17- or 18-year marriage, and being let go after nine and a half years. . . . Obviously they liked what I did; I wasn't fired for cause. I thought, well, I could get in the same little box that society says 'This is what security means.' Or, I could actually do what makes me happy. It's been a great choice.”
Boyd sustains himself through an array of training films, voice work, commercial shoots and serving as a film extra.
Recently, he showed up briefly in the David Schwimmer-directed drama Trust
, which was shot in Ann Arbor. Clive Owen and Catherine Keener star in the drama about 14-year-old girl who becomes ensnared by an Internet predator.
“There was a shot of Clive Owens talking to his daughter's psychologist and then you see another office across the court yard,” Boyd says. “I'm sitting there with my back to the window and I'm working.”
“It's probably out of focus," he adds with a laugh.
Such nondescript roles might not seem worthwhile, but Boyd relishes those as part of the vista that’s opened with the film industry’s increasing presence in Michigan.
In commercials, he’s portrayed a satisfied window company customer and a cordial auto dealer finance manager. He’s been a voice of authority in training films and a pitchman for paint remover called “Goof Off
Boyd recently landed a voice role of a beaver in the preschool-targeted animated series, The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure. Up Close and Personal
“It sort of atrophied over time,” Boyd says about a stand-up comedy career in which he once crossed paths with Jerry Seinfeld, Tim Allen and Drew Carey. “You have these dreams, but life gets in the way. I think that happens to a lot of people. You just sort of try to keep up with everyday living and it ends up on the back burner. It is something that never really went away.”
As his comedic aspirations have grounded, Boyd’s veered toward theater. He performed as “Joel” in the recent BoarsHead Theater production of “Beau Jest,” and has been featured in numerous Lansing Civic Players efforts.
Though working a day job, Boyd still did sporadic appearances as a comedian.
In Whip It
, Boyd scored a break when the director selected him from an audition tape to play the character Ronny, neighbor to the punk rock-tinged pageant participant-turned-neophyte-roller-derby-dervish, Bliss Cavender, played by Ellen Page.
His scenes were shot in an Ypsilanti cul-de-sac where he was seen watering the lawn and accidentally hitting Bliss’ dad Earl, played by Daniel Stern (best known for Home Alone
), with a football.
The football shot scored with director Drew Barrymore, who Boyd described as being effervescent on the set.
“We got it in the second take,” says Boyd, who had to arc the pigskin over a group of kids and then hit Stern between the shoulder blades.
“She came running out from the behind the camera and gave me a big hug and said, ‘That was wonderful!’ She was just so cute about the whole thing.”
After Boyd's last scene, first-time director Barrymore announced to the crew that Boyd’s character had wrapped. Barrymore gave him another hug and told him for being extra good he earned a punch in the arm, which she affectionately delivered.
Between shots, Boyd and Stern talked about their children. Boyd has two children, Jessie, 15, and Nick, 10.
Those endearing slices of Hollywood will remain with Boyd, even at the risk of some of his efforts ending up on the cutting room floor, he says.
“I feel it's always been a dream of mine, and a drive to do these things,” he says. “I've been fortunate to just wait long for Hollywood to come to Michigan and find me.”
Larry O'Connor is a Capital region freelance writer who sits at the soda fountain and waits to be discovered by a Hollywood film mogul.
Dave Trumpie is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.
Mark Boyd, including clowning around with a Whip It movie poster and in BoarsHead Theater's “Beau Jest”
All Photographs © Dave Trumpie