To Cindy Miller, being a stand-in is a lot like always being the bridesmaid.
She should know. As Jodie Foster's stand-in during the Washington filming of "The Silence of the Lambs," it was her job to endure the tedium of moviemaking, spending as many as 14 hours on the set, reading lines and playing mannequin while the crew worked out the kinks in a scene.
"It's a wonderful thing because you learn a lot about the film business, but in the back of your mind, you forget you're not going to be the one shooting it," says Ms. Miller.
She's diplomatic in describing the Oscar-winning actress: "She's very quiet person. She stuck to herself on the set."
There are times when Ms. Miller's work actually does make it to the screen, she says. She has appeared in national commercials, company training films and a PBS docudrama.
"The fantasy is what attracted me," says Ms. Miller, 32, who livein Columbia with her husband, fellow actor Jim Hild.
The unattractive part is never knowing when she and her husband will work again.
"It's difficult to plan vacations," she says. "We've canceled trips because a great job came through. The only time we haven't done that is on our honeymoon."
If ACT-SO had been around when Linda Aina was a student, she probably would have been its star competitor.
But since the Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics didn't come about until 1977, she has to settle for being the local chairwoman of the NAACP- sponsored high school competition.
This month, roughly 250 black students from schools in the city and Baltimore County are vying for medals in 24 categories, including biology, computer science and poetry -- hoping to qualify for the nationals in Houston this summer.
Ms. Aina, a former flight attendant and teacher, is orchestrating everything from a coaching staff of college professors to the awards banquet.
"I got involved because I really enjoy working with youth. ACT-SO is a very positive program. I think we need to put more emphasis on the positive," says Ms. Aina, who works as assistant campaign manager for the United Way.
She hopes that youngsters come away from the program realizing that hard work can pay off.
Asked what ACT-SO has taught her, the thirtysomething woman who lives in Northwest Baltimore quickly replies, "There's lots to do and little time to get it all done."