Movie producers update on Culver shooting schedule, possible casting calls

The executive producer of a nationally-distributed movie set to be filmed in Culver in August was in town last week, finalizing some plans, meeting with various individuals, and even stopping by for a visit to Culver's Kiwanis Club on Thursday.

James Simmons, one of the founders of Bearfruit Films ( and executive producer of "Little Savages," a family film which he says will utilize Culver as a kind of "character" in the movie, updated Culverites on the shooting schedule and other details related to the movie.

He said producers and the film's director will likely spend at least half of July in Culver, finalizing shooting locales and other aspects of the process. Actors and crew should arrive August 3 for four weeks of shooting on a "five days on, two days off" schedule, which he notes leaves some leeway for rainy days or other complications to be compensated for with an extra day of shooting, making the schedule six days per week. "B roll," or background footage will be shot at the Lake Fest in July, however.

"We want this to be fun for everyone," he says of the intentionally less "driven" shooting schedule. "If it's not, that shows up on screen sometimes, especially with kids."

Kids are a major presence in the film, whose plot centers around the Savage kids, local to Culver, who search for a hidden treasure in competition with town bullies in search of the same treasure. Promotional material likened the script to "a blend of 'Goonies,' 'Little Rascals,' 'The Ultimate Gift.' and 'The Amazing Race.'" The movie is planned to be the first of a trilogy, if all goes according to plan.

Simmons also said producers hope to "stack the decks" of the film's cast with a nationally-known name actor, Disney star, or musician, for either the lead role or a cameo in the film, to help drive attention to it once it's released.

One well-known name in Hollywood who has attached himself to the project is Philip Glasser, the voice (as a child) of Fieval Mousekewitz in the 1986 animated movie, "An American Tail," among other high-profile Hollywood films. Last year he produced the animated "Escape from Planet Earth."

Simmons says Glasser saw Bear Fruit's upcoming movie, "Rumors of Wars" and was interested enough in working with the company that he agreed to a far smaller paycheck than he's accustomed to.

"He said he doesn't watch a lot of low-budget, faith-based movies, but asked, 'What are you guys doing next?' "

"Little Savages" is considered "low budget" at under $1 million, but filmmakers are projecting the subtle "faith-friendly" movie will take off and spiral into a franchise.

Shooting in Culver had been deemed advantageous due to its easy access to Chicago and Grand Rapids, among other cities, though filmmakers had considered shooting in states which offer financial incentives to movie studios utilizing their locales. In the end, Culver's overall compatibility was among factors its favor; local volunteers and extras will likely be utilized during shooting.

The hope, says Simmons, is to minimize driving or flying time for actors involved in the movie, whose actual shooting will start August 5. He says Culver will "have to help make the movie." He likened the project to a football game in which Bear Fruit will provide the general manager, coach, quarterback, and "star players, but a lot of the team has to come from Culver."

He also notes there will be regular updates via email, Facebook, and other avenues calling for local extras throughout August, and there may be opportunities for local actors to audition for some roles, to be announced in the near future.

"By the end of August, we will have filmed a feature film that uses and highlights the best Culver has to offer: the lake, the things on or in or around the's the Marina, Cafe Max, it's the boat at Lakehouse Grill, it's the little quaint church, the parks, the Academy."

Those interested in getting involved with the making of the film may email and tell filmmakers a little about yourself.

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