Michelle O’Brien speaks Wednesday at the Greater Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce lunch at Cape Fox Lodge.

While it’s rare for big-budget movie makers to take the time, trouble and expense to film in Alaska, there are plenty of small-screen productions happening in the 49th state.

Michelle O’Brien produces local content for Ketchikan Public Utilities Telecommunications Division. She spoke to the Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce this week about job opportunities available through the Alaska film industry.

O’Brien said that new ideas for reality shows continue to crop up, and those shows often need locals to round out the crews. Sometimes, they even want locals in front of the camera.

“We have had a local family that has passed all of the background checks and gone through the whole rigamarole to be on ‘Wife Swap,'” she said. “That should be rather interesting. That same family, ironically enough, has also been approached by ‘Doomsday Preppers.'”

Through KPU, and in cooperation with the Ketchikan School District, O’Brien applied last year for a state workforce development grant to teach filmmaking skills to local residents. They were awarded $40,000 to host four seminars.

“The first one was in September and it was very basic,” she said. “We had a lot of high school students, and we concentrated on basic videography. Everything from how you turn the camera on to how you would focus properly.”

A second seminar is coming up next month. That week-long workshop will focus on editing.

Once local residents have been trained, there are opportunities. In fact, O’Brien said training isn’t even required to sign up.

There is a link on the Alaska Film Office web page where state residents can register for crew and support services jobs, or as extras. http://ak.reel-scout.com/crew_search.aspx

“You can go in and sign up: ‘I’d like to be a helper on the set; I’d like to be an extra on the set,'” she said. “You can upload your photo. There’s absolutely no cost, and you will get a call. Believe it or not, you actually will. I actually did get a call to play a reporter in Big Miracle, but unfortunately due to some scheduling arrangements, I was unable to get up to Anchorage at that point.”

O’Brien said there aren’t enough people signed up for those roles, which makes it more challenging for feature productions to film in Alaska.

The videography seminars are open to everyone in the community regardless of age. O’Brien says more information, including details about scholarships, is available through the Ketchikan Job Center.