RICHMOND – Donald “Spec” Campen Jr. pinned a bright yellow “Lights Camera JOBS!” button to his Navy blazer and spent Tuesday morning serving donuts and funneling popcorn into small cardboard boxes on the first floor of the General Assembly Building.
It was the 92-year-old Henrico County actor’s way of thanking legislators for their support of the film industry, such as a $4.6 million tax incentive package that helped convince Steven Spielberg to film the Oscar-nominated film “Lincoln” here, many of the scenes on Capitol grounds. Campen was an extra in the picture, one of 57 movies filmed in Virginia that he’s had a part in.
The World War II veteran and former sergeant-at-arms for the House of Delegates fell into acting by accident when a friend in 1982 asked him to audition on-the-fly for a murder flick. Campen has since appeared in the made-for-TV movie “Killing Lincoln” and blockbusters “The Jackal” and “Hearts in Atlantis.” He has also met celebrities, including Jodie Foster and John Cusack.
Campen returns to the General Assembly each year to say thanks and encourage legislators to continue supporting the industry.
Legislators have proposed a resolution thanking Spielberg, and tourism officials have adopted a “Lincoln Was Here” slogan – somewhat reminiscent of outhouse graffiti – to brand stickers and other materials, including a map guiding visitors to film locations around Richmond.
The movie created 410 jobs in Virginia and spent $32.4 million here, according to the Virginia Tourism Corp. Overall, the group says the film industry was responsible for more than 3,800 jobs and $394.4 million in total economic impact in 2011.
-Kathy Adams, The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot