Ever since Chris Briley was a young boy, he has found movies to be magical.
"I was always interested in the entertainment industry since I was little," the 2005 Newcomerstown High graduate said. "I would watch movies and try to mimic my favorite actors. I would try to do scenes how they would do it."
Pursuing a career in the entertainment business wasn’t really something that seemed possible back in those days, said Briley.
After high school, Briley, who currently drives a truck, said he was all over the place with ideas of what he might like to do. He enjoys drawing and thought at one time he’d like to be a cartoonist. He went to school for a time, thinking he might want to be an architect.
"I’ve always had some big dreams and would start them ... and then something would discourage me," he said. "I’d realize it wasn’t what I would like to do in the long run."
But in 2015, when Briley was 31, something happened that got him on the road to running down the entertainment dream.
One day while on Facebook he came across an item about one of the movies from the "Fast and Furious" film series being filmed in Cleveland. He thought it would be fun to go see it being filmed.
He ended up doing a little more digging and found the name of Angela Boehm, owner of Angela Boehm Casting in the Cleveland area. He contacted her and expressed his interest in work. It took a little time, but after about six months of what Briley called "bugging her" she responded.
"I really owe her everything for giving me a chance and getting started," said Briley, now 33.
Boehm called him for the movie "Little Evil" that was filmed in Cleveland and had a cast of Evangeline Lilly, Owen Atlas, Adam Scott, Chris D’Elia, Donald Faison, Kyle Bornheimer and Bridget Everett, to name a few. Briley was cast as a wedding guest.
"The part didn’t make it into the movie, but it was a blast … I had the time of my life," said Briley. "I thought it was unreal, the cameras, seeing how they did everything. There was actually a tornado that wrecked the wedding and they brought in these giant fans, like 15-feet high and they’re blowing chairs all over the place."
And Briley also said he was a bit starstruck when Lilly, of "Ant-Man and the Wasp" and "Lost" fame, appeared next to him when he was near the aisle in the outdoor reception scene.
The day ended up being more interesting when he found out that they were planning to choose a male part for another scene that director Eli Craig wanted to shoot. Starting with about 50 candidates, the group was cut to 14 by the production assistant. They were sent to Craig where he talked to each of the hopefuls individually.
Craig ended up choosing Briley for the part. Suddenly he found himself in a scene with the entire main cast. It took eight hours to do the scene. Briley was seated at a table with Scott, Bornheimer, D’Elia, Faison and Everett. In the scene Briley was to encourage Scott to speak during a father support group.
Again the part was cut down, but Briley looked at the bright side. He got great experience and met a lot of people during the day. He made several contacts, crucial if you are going to get more chances.
In the past couple of years he has had several opportunities and is adding to his list on his IMDb page.
He played a clerk whose store gets robbed by the mountain people on the TV show "Outsiders."
Briley played an airline passenger on the TV show "Mindhunter." The show is set in the '70s so he wore clothes from the era and even sported a thick mustache.
Things picked up when a casting agent from Pennsylvania texted Briley to see if he might be interested in being Bryan Cranston’s stand-in on the film "Last Flag Flying." There were other candidates up for the job and Cranston went with someone else. Briley still got work as the stand-in for Jerry Lee Tucker who played a character named Raincoat in the film.
"I knew this was the direction I wanted to go," said Briley. "I didn’t tell the casting agent I had never done stand-in work. But being a stand-in is amazing. It’s school for one, because you’re working with these juggernauts in the industry and learning their techniques and seeing how they do things."
A stand-in is the person who is used when the crew is getting the lighting and the sound right for a scene. The main cast runs through a scene, then stand-ins take their place while the technical aspects are prepared. It allows the main actors to get ready for the final shoot. When things are good to go on the technical side, the main actors come back to do the scene.
Another advantage of being a stand-in is having more freedom to move around the set and eat crew food. One day Briley was able to spend some time working when Laurence Fishburne was on set and got to eat lunch with him.
Briley played a paramedic in an episode of the TV series "Gone" and as a police officer in "The Assassin’s Code."
In yet another opportunity, Briley played a gun show patron in the film "White Boy Rick" which starred Matthew McConaughey and Richie Merritt. Briley was able to find out through an acquaintance working on the film where McConaughey was expected to be for the scene. He was informed that McConaughey would end up at a certain table. Briley hung around the area and sure enough, McConaughey ended up there. Briley knew he would be where the action was being filmed and he also was able to watch McConaughey work over the next 14 hours.
Briley described McConaughey as a master, saying he never messed up a line the entire time.
The best experience Briley has had was being the stand-in on the film "Them That Follow," to be released in 2019. He ended up being a stand-in for all the main male actors in the film that stars Olivia Colman, Kaitlyn Dever, Walton Goggins, Thomas Mann, Jim Gaffigan, Alice Englert and Lewis Pullman. He spent three months working six days a week, 14 hours a day, and Briley said it was a family-type atmosphere.
Most of the time each actor has his own stand-in. It was unusual for him to be the stand-in for four actors. And it presented some challenges. Being a stand-in for Gaffigan allowed for some humor.
"It was funny, because the man is tall … like 6-foot-5, so they gave me a stool to stand on," he said. "The first day I worked with him I got on my tiptoes and said ‘That’s close (for height)’ and he said, ‘But you’re not as purty.’"
Briley also has been the stand-in for Wolfgang Novogratz for the upcoming film "The Last Summer."
Over the past couple of years Briley has met a lot of interesting people during his early journey in the entertainment world. He became friends with Alan Tuskes, a makeup artist who he met on shoots, including "Them That Follow." Tuskes made a trip to Newcomerstown to visit Briley when the village celebrated Halloween in October. He transformed Briley into Freddy Krueger. It took five hours to do the makeup.
Soon Briley hopes to be able to head out to Los Angeles and see if he can find an opportunity there. He’s trying to build up his funds and is expecting a layoff from his truck driving job.
Briley said his biggest fans are his mother Penny Rine and brother Michael Umbowers. Umbowers has shown interest in entertainment, too. He recently was part of the lighting crew for a play at Newcomerstown High School.
He doesn't know what the future might hold, but Briley would like to find enough success to keep working in the entertainment world. He said he doesn't want to be an 80-year-old man thinking, "What if?"
"My favorite quote is from Denzel Washington who said ‘Without failure, you never tried.’ And I love that. I’m in this for the long haul."
Joe Wright is a staff writer at The Times-Reporter.