Locally filmed movie helps local economy.

October 13, 2014
Director Jon Gunn checks out the camera angle inside the courtroom at Mason County Courthouse Saturday.

Director Jon Gunn checks out the camera angle inside the courtroom at Mason County Courthouse Saturday.

Hair stylist John Bailey of Ludington shaves actor J.J. Soria.

Hair stylist John Bailey of Ludington shaves actor J.J. Soria.

By Rob Alway. Editor-in-Chief. 

LUDINGTON — Activity was buzzing at the Mason County Courthouse Saturday afternoon but court wasn’t in session. Instead, the historic building was used as the setting for a movie that is currently being filmed in western Michigan. The movie, working name of “Do You Believe?” is a production of 10 West Studios of Manistee and Pure Flix Entertainment of Arizona.

Filming, which started on September 19 is just over halfway done. Locations have included Manistee, Ludington and Muskegon Heights. Mason County resident Harold Cronk, who directed the Pure Flix blockbuster “God’s Not Dead” is working as the producer of this latest film. Cronk is co-owner of 10 West Studios. The studio’s other owner, Matt Tailford performs as one of the key actors in the film. The movie is directed by Jon Gunn, who also directed the Pure Flix movie “Like Dandelion Dust.”

The Christian-based film tells the story of a group of seemingly unrelated individuals whose lives collide in a series of events following one man’s decision to live his life. It is the recipient of $650,000 in incentive money from the Michigan Film Office. The idea behind the incentives is to promote Michigan to a national an international audience and to stimulate the economy.

Actors Lee Majors, left, Ted McGinley and Cybill Shepard.

Actors Lee Majors, left, Ted McGinley and Cybill Shepard.

Stimulating the economy is an important priority for the production company. A majority of the crew are Michigan residents; specifically many are from western Michigan including Mason, Manistee and Muskegon counties.

This is the fourth 10 West Studios production Nate Martin of Custer has worked on. The 2009 Mason County Eastern High School graduate majored in film production at Spring Arbor University. On this movie he serves as the extras casting assistant. “It’s an incredible opportunity to be able to live in Mason County, Michigan and be employed in the film industry,” Martin said. “If it weren’t for 10 West and Harold Cronk, I wouldn’t be able to work here in the industry I love.”

“It’s important to us that we hire local people as much as possible,” said Mona Nahm, the film’s line producer. Nahm’s job is to oversee the day-to-day operations of the film production and to make sure it stays on budget.

“We have an incredible crew and cast and I think that speaks highly of 10 West’s commitment to producing quality film in west Michigan,” Nahm said.

Teen actor Madison Pettis, center, poses with children from Muskegon Heights.

Teen actor Madison Pettis, center, poses with children from Muskegon Heights.

The production company is so committed to helping the local economies it is even paying the background extras, something that doesn’t usually happen with lower budget films.

“It’s important that we be good community partners,” Nahm said.

In addition to hiring local crew and extras, 10 West also stimulates the economy by spending its money locally: Cast and crew are housed at Days Inn Manistee and Little River Casino and Resort, catering is done by Manistee National Golf and Resort, vehicles are rented from VanderHaag Car Sales of Scottville and lumber is purchased from Olson Lumber of Manistee.

“We are always happy to accommodate large groups and are blessed with this wonderful crew,” said Aisha Newenhouse, owner of the Days Inn in Manistee. “With unusual work hours we work around their schedules and help them in any way we can. It’s fun all around, even if it’s a small one, to be part of the movie making process. From holding casting calls in our meeting room to seeing the crew coming and going all day we just flip log our cleaning schedules so they are not disturbed.

“Being this is a slower part of the season, it’s a true blessing to have them stay with us. Everyone has been very nice.”

Producer Harold Cronk, left, and director Jon Gunn discuss the filming.

Producer Harold Cronk, left, and director Jon Gunn discuss the filming.

John Bailey, owner of the Director’s Cut Hair Salon on South James Street in Ludington, has worked on four films with 10 West Studios. Bailey is the head hairdresser on the set. He has also worked for many years in the entertainment industry. “This has been a great opportunity for me,” he said about working on the movie set. “It’s a challenge because I am balancing operating a salon and filming a movie,” Bailey said. “The hours are intense and unusual. The conditions are sometimes very difficult. But, I love it. It’s been great that Harold Cronk has chosen to put his studio here and provide opportunities for locals to work in the film industry.”

Maura Jones is a 2012 graduate of Ludington High School and is a junior at Michigan State University majoring in media and information studies. She serves as a production assistant intern on the set. “I contacted Mr. Cronk back in the spring and told him I was interested in film. I was contacted right before the movie started and dropped all my classes for this semester. I felt it was important to take this opportunity. I’m very thankful to Mr. Cronk for this opportunity and thankful that I can do this in my hometown.”

Megan O’Brien is a 2008 graduate of Manistee High School and received a degree in broadcasting, cinematic arts, creative writing and film from Central Michigan University. She was initially hired as an unpaid office production assistant intern but quickly showed her worth to the production company. She is now the assistant production coordinator and is responsible for many of the logistics of the movie such as booking flights for the cast and coordinating local transportation.

Filming on Fifth Avenue beach in Manistee.

Filming on Fifth Avenue beach in Manistee.

“This job has been a real blessing,” O’Brien said. “I was literally ready to move out of the area when I was approached to take this job. It’s great that a film of this caliber is being created right here in Manistee County. I think that this is also a real source of pride for our area.”

Filming has moved back to Manistee where the climax of the movie is being filmed on the U.S. 31 drawbridge.

“The movie consists of seven story lines. Each of those story lines includes characters who struggle with their faith,” Nahm said. “Some of them are believers who wrestle with their faith. Others deal with the choices they have made or need to make in their lives. But, all those story lines come together in what place where each character needs to set aside their differences for the greater good.

“While this is a Christian film, I think the audience is much broader. This story can appeal to people of all backgrounds. It deals with making choices.”

The film features a large cast of actors including Sean Astin (“Lord of the Rings”), Cybill Shepard (“Moonlighting”), J.J. Soria (“Army Wives”), Madison Pettis (“Cory In The House”), Lee Majors (“Six Million Dollar Man”), “Ted McGinley” (“Married with Children”), Alexa PenaVega (“Spy Kids”) and Brian Bosworth (former NFL star), hip-hop artist Shwayze and Academy Award winner Mira Savino among many others.

 

 

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