Pat O'Hara finds his Hollywood niche
For Pat O'Hara, the road to Hollywood wound through Orlando. O'Hara, a former USC quarterback who grew up in Santa Monica and is now an Arena League coach, also has a day job -- as a football consultant to the stars.
The Orlando Predators coach, who as a player led the Predators to two league championships, trains A-list actors like Adam Sandler, Jamie Foxx and Mark Wahlberg to look like gridiron stars. Surprisingly, he discovered the stars he worked with were great athletes and highly coachable.
"Actors are like sponges," O'Hara said. "They want to learn so bad. They will do everything you tell them to do, to a T. You have to be careful about every word that comes out because many of these high-profile actors are perfectionists."
This world did not open for O'Hara until he moved 3,000 miles from home to play for the Predators in 1995. There he met up with Sports Studio founder Mark Ellis, and in 1997, Ellis cast O'Hara in a small role in "The Waterboy" and later in "Any Given Sunday."
Getting that showbiz intro was all O'Hara needed to make the jump into an advisory role.
"He has that very calm, poised demeanor and he is able to relate that," Ellis said. "These guys don't want to fail. Pat inspires these actors to work harder. They all really like Pat. We leave the set and they end up sending Pat Christmas cards and they stay in touch. He becomes part of their family."
But working with the stars is only a small part of football consulting. Finding doubles, conducting training camps and drawing up playbooks are also part of the deal.
Finding the right fits to fill out a fictional football roster may be the most essential task associated with O'Hara's job. He must find players, officials, coaches and other extras to add to the realism of each film.
With years of experience in the AFL, he has a natural recruiting pool.
"I realized that when I started working behind the scenes that I fell in love with finding personnel and hiring personnel," O'Hara said. He enjoys the challenge of "finding the right guys for different movies, whether it's a scene from 1976, like 'Invincible,' or if it's a prison movie where you have to find tough-looking guys like 'The Longest Yard.'"
Once all pieces are in place, the real work begins. Making choreographed scenes pop is tougher than it looks. Coordinating 22 players on the field, plus the superfluous amount of action on the sidelines, is a management job some corporate CEOs might struggle with.
The "violent dance," as Ellis describes it, can prove challenging for any football consultant.
"You've got to be able to speak both languages, the language of the sport and production," Ellis said. "It costs $350,000 a day to shoot one of these movies. If you don't get a play right or guys start dropping balls on you, all of a sudden you start losing $5-, 10-, 20-, $30,000 in 20 minutes, that's real."
Carson Ingle is a freelance writer for Sports Media Exchange, a national freelance writing network.