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The Student-Run News Site of Westside High School in Omaha, Nebraska. Keeping you WIRED in to all things Westside.

Westside Wired

The Student-Run News Site of Westside High School in Omaha, Nebraska. Keeping you WIRED in to all things Westside.

Westside Wired

The Student-Run News Site of Westside High School in Omaha, Nebraska. Keeping you WIRED in to all things Westside.

Westside Wired

Omaha native thankful to work on film in Nebraska, freshman has supporting role

Nebraska native Justin Blecha never thought he’d find his way in the film industry, but over a decade later, he had the opportunity to work on Snack Shack, a film shot in Nebraska. Westside freshman June Gentry also played a supporting role in the movie. 

“I was actually in California working on another project, a TV show called Blackish,” Blecha said. “By word of mouth I heard one of the guys on my crew talking about how his wife was offered a job on a project in Nebraska. But she turned it down. I was just so happening to be heading back to Nebraska in two weeks, so I got the phone number of the production designer.”

This led to him cold calling the production designer, explaining who he was, how he grew up in Nebraska and always wanted to work on a film there and how he was interested in working on the film.

“She said ‘can you come today after you get back to town?’ and I said ‘yeah absolutely,’ so I just jumped on it,” Blecha said. “The next day I was down in Nebraska City working on the movie. It’s just the right place at the right time.”

Blecha worked on the set decorating department for Snack Shack, and as it was a period movie that took place in the 1990s in Nebraska, they had to think outside the box to get set decorations as they did not have access to the prop houses that Hollywood has. This also happens to be the same era Blecha grew up in. 

“When you’re trying to create 1990s Nebraska, you have to take a step back a bit further because you’re going to have elements from the 70s and 80s that kind of creep their way in,” Blecha said. “Everything that was in the movie, we had to source locally from antique shops or people’s garages or basements, wherever we could find period correct set dressing.”

Nebraska memorabilia was easiest to find as they shopped around Nebraska and Iowa.

“It was cool to be able to go through peoples’ prized possessions,” Blecha said. “Some of it we rented and a lot of it we bought from folks.”

Blecha also had fun sneaking in things like Dorthy Lynch salad dressing and yellow ribbions tied to the trees.

“Nebraska also during that time, there were conflicts that we as a country were involved in, so there were yellow ribbons tied on all the trees to show support for our troops,” Blecha said.

Additionally, Westside freshman June Gentry had a supporting role in the film playing Chrissy, A.J. ‘s (Conor Sherry) sister. 

“I heard about a casting call and decided to submit for fun,” Gentry said.

Gentry enjoyed the experience a lot and loved working on the film.

“It was so fun going to the premiere and seeing the movie for the first time and telling funny stories about when we were filming,” Gentry said.

Blecha also enjoyed working on the film as the director grew up in Nebraska City, and was an approachable director.

“It was awesome working with the director, who’s a local guy born and raised in Nebraska City,” Blecha said. “It’s important to make sure everything is period correct, and a lot of the directors that you work with aren’t as approachable as he was.”

Blecha is also part of IATSE Local 44, a union based out of Hollywood. 

“Our locals are craft specific,” Blecha said. “Omaha is Local 42. That’s a mixed local, so it’s one union that encompasses everybody’s job. But the California Local 44 is specific to my craft which falls under the property department. That’s like your set decorators, your prop masters, your set dressers, anybody who’s involved with handling any of the set dressing or props or set construction falls under local 44.”

Another thing that makes being a part of a union make sense in Hollywood is that a lot of the work is gig work so people may not be employed or working on films or shows the whole year.

“It’s a way to make sure that the way we’re being paid is consistent and that we’re earning wages that we should expect to earn on different projects,” Blecha said. “So they negotiate our wages for us and through that we have a pension and health care, all the stuff you would get from a regular nine to five job.”

Looking back on it, Blecha never expected to end up in Hollywood working on shows such as Blackish and Cupcake Wars as well as working on films with directors like Rob Zombie and Quentin Tarantino.

“My older brother moved to Los Angeles to go to art school,” Blecha said. “And he kind of just fell into it and told me he was going to be focusing his efforts on building a career in film and TV.”

Through this, his brother eventually convinced Blecha to come down to LA and give it a chance.

“One day it was like the middle of winter and I was sick and tired outside of the cold and snow and he convinced me to come out and work on one job,” Blecha said. “So I went out and worked the one job and had a great time. I fell in love with it. And then I figured it would be over and I’d have to go back home into the real world, but then another job came up and then it just kept going and going and I kept getting more phone calls for more projects and the next thing you know, joining the union and the work keeps coming.”

Blecha also says if people are interested in this line of work, they should 100% pursue it.

“The benefits are great,” Blecha said. “I know it seems a little far-fetched for some people that this is really a line of work and they can pursue it and be successful, but there are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people across the country that it’s a reality for them.”

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About the Contributor
Daniel Vanourney
Daniel Vanourney, Lance Staff
I am Daniel Vanourney and this is my second year on Lance. I love movies and pop culture. I also love music and Halloween.
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