Movie producers scouting for July filming in Culver

The writer-director and producers for a big-screen film, potentially to be shot in Culver, were in town last week, checking out the scenery and meeting with locals.

James Simmons, an executive producer with Bear Fruit Films ( says the idea to use Culver grew from a single visit to the area some years ago, thanks to his wife's childhood summer spent on Lake Maxinkuckee. Simmons thinks Culver would be an ideal locale to film, "Little Savages," a "redemptive family film."

The plot centers around the Savage kids, locals to the lake town of Culver, who befriend two outsiders. During the search for a hidden treasure, they run into the town bullies in search of the same treasure. Each group stakes claim to the treasure and the annual Lake-fest Challenge now has the reward of a lifetime.

The film, according to information supplied by Simmons, "has been likened to a blend of 'Goonies,' 'Little Rascals,' 'The Ultimate Gift.' and 'The Amazing Race.'

"It’s a fun, entertaining movie full of twists and turns that will also have inspirational messages," adds the write-up.

The film is considered "low budget," in that it will cost under $1 million to produce, but Simmons and writer-director Paul Tomborello point to the recent success of such films as "Facing the Giants" and "Fireproof," which have done remarkably well on a national scale, as examples of a movie market "not being serviced by the studios' yearly slate of remakes, sequels, fluffy romantic comedies, and formulaic comic book movies.

"Our fans are mainstream and independent moviegoers, who love movies of all shapes and colors, but are hungry for warm-hearted stories and likeable characters that many studios are not providing," says the film's business plan.

Themes woven into the film include the importance of the virtues of forgiveness and generosity; the greatest treasure is in the journey and the people who you share it with; when you work together, you can accomplish much more; we are all uniquely created for a purpose; and persevere through tough times, don’t ever quit.

Simmons and Tomborello were joined Friday night by associate producer Sean Stephens for a chat with several from Culver, including Rick Tompos of Culver Academies, Ginny Munroe of Culver's town council, and Mark Damore Jr, owner of the Lakehouse Grille, where the meeting took place. Simmons had already met with several other businesspeople and town leaders during the day.

Though "Little Savages" is "faith based" in nature, Simmons, Tomborello, and Stephens were quick to emphasize it won't be "preachy," but will instead be the sort of all-ages film anyone could enjoy.

And of particular significance to Culver residents, it would be shot almost entirely in Culver, using the town as, in effect, a "character" in the film.

"We don't have a huge budget to film in multiple locations or build extravagant sets," writes Simmons, "so we have to use practical locations. This film will end up being one big commercial for whatever town we settle on. By capturing the town's best, it will end up looking like a $5-10 million dollar film, because the town's best has the highest production value. We would like to partner with Culver as much as possible to make this a win-win, so we are willing to implement your ideas into the script."

He notes Culver's location has the advantage of being around two hours from Chicago and Grand Rapids, which offers the company a pool of actors and film technicians from which to draw when shooting time comes.

The decision to film in Culver isn't final. Previous film work for Bear Fruit (including "Rumors of Wars," a time-spanning fantasy due for release later this year) has utilized sites in Mississippi and Michigan. The latter state is known for its financial incentives for film-makers, something Indiana has yet to offer. Simmons, however, feels Culver is an ideal setting to capture the feel the company wants for the movie.

If filming does take place here, it will take 30 days or less to shoot; the plan is for the movie to be ready for distribution by the end of this year. Filming would begin July 9 -- and likely include the actual Lake Fest itself -- and conclude August 7, and local volunteers and extras will be utilized during shooting.