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The Big Picture

by Robin Rieger

I am not brave enough to watch scary movies. I remember watching parts of the film Halloween when it first came out and even now hearing the music can get my heart racing. When I was young and would babysit around the neighborhood, I would especially get nervous after watching a movie where a man kept calling a teen babysitter and asking her in a whispery, creepy voice, “Have you checked the children?” It freaked me out after someone from the phone company—or police—called the babysitter who reported the calls and told her that they were coming from inside the house. I could scream right now as I think about her reaction to the sound of a creaky upstairs door opening. My own reaction was to flee the room to avoid seeing the ending, though I suspect the teenager barely escaped a murderous maniac.

Fast forward from then to now and another movie where teens are terrorized makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck. Tom and I recently went to the movies to see The Accountant. While sitting through the previews of other soon-to-be-released flicks, one of them caught my attention before it clicked and I said aloud to Tom, “Hey, this is the movie I am in!” as a trailer of M. Night Shyamalan’s Split filled the big screen. Due out mid-January, it stars James McAvoy as a man with multiple personalities who abducts three teenage girls. I won’t reveal anything more about the movie but I will tell you if I didn’t end up on the cutting room floor you will see me portraying ... yes, a television news reporter.

Normally, I audition for roles after my agent calls to see if I can make a shoot date and then I tape or get to an audition usually with a day’s notice. I didn’t know I was being considered for the Split part until my agent called to tell me I got it. A casting director requested my reel, which shows some of my work, but my agent didn’t tell me at the time because she didn’t want me to worry about it or be disappointed if I didn’t get it. I was thrilled to get the role and very excited that the movie was shooting in and around Philadelphia.

In a way getting this part was redemption for me. Many, many years ago when I was working as a real TV news reporter at CBS3, I was asked along with a few other reporters at the station to go audition for an M. Night movie.

It was for a reporter role and having absolutely no idea what to expect or what to do, I showed up at the casting agents’ office to audition and I was embarrassingly awful. I should have done a straight report on an invasion; instead as I “reported live” I ducked and cringed as if I were being attacked. Looking back on it now I imagine thought bubbles over the two casting agents’ heads. “Is she for real?” fills one. “NEXT!!” fills the other. I’m glad I still had my day job at the time.

Shooting the scene for Split was just like doing my old reporting job in so many ways. I stood on a street corner with Philly traffic zooming by and pedestrians looking over to see what the “news crew” was doing in their neighborhood. The big difference? I never got a do-over on a live broadcast if I messed up. On the set, I did several takes emphasizing different parts of the script at different times, all the while being coached by M. Night and enjoying the experience immensely. I can’t wait to see how it all turns out. The problem is I have to watch the scary, suspenseful movie to find out.

Maybe I can watch the movie in a more clinical or analytical way to keep myself in my seat to see how my scene looks. I can also plug my ears and peek through split fingers if things get too scary or Tom gets tired of me squeezing his arm.

Being scared sometimes is good, getting over the fear is even better. It’s how I have looked at many opportunities that have come my way since leaving CBS3 in 2013. This column was one of those opportunities that I enjoyed doing after getting over the initial fear of, “What if people don’t like what I write?” It turns out I liked what I wrote and so did many of you and I really appreciated often hearing how a column of mine made you laugh or cry or reminisce about people, places, even parenting issues we might have had in common in our South Jersey community.

After three years of monthly meetings between me and my keyboard I think it’s time to let someone else share their thoughts in this space, so this will be my last column. I look back often at what I have written to see just how special this place is that our families call home. It’s been as much a privilege to write about it as it has been to live it.

Robin Rieger is a former anchor and reporter with CBS 3. A lifelong South Jersey resident, she lives with her husband, Philadelphia 76ers Radio play-by-play broadcaster Tom McGinnis, and their two children in Burlington County.

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 10 (January, 2017).
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