‘Little Savages,’ big response to local filming, stars’ presence in Culver

What may have started as inquisitive curiosity about the prospect of a big-screen feature movie being shot in Culver this summer turned last week into something akin to "Little Savages" fever here, as faces from internationally known television shows and movies began turning up in restaurants and on the streets of Culver, and residents -- especially the "under 20" set -- began flooding social media networks with photos of themselves with the movie's stars.

Filmmakers behind the family-friendly movie "Little Savages," the work of faith-based movie studio Bearfruit Films (www.bearfruitfilms.com), arrived in Culver in June explaining they hoped to compensate for the film's lower budget by soliciting community support in the way of housing, use of local locales for shooting, and other assistance, with the promise of Culver, Indiana as a prominent part of the story in return.

The result of endeavors to include "name" stars -- particularly from family-friendly Disney Channel television programs -- seemed to surpass the expectations even of producers themselves. Lead roles have been filled by Noah Lomax (from the films "Safe Haven" and "Playing for Keeps"), Jamie Kennedy (numerous shows and films), Adam Hicks (Disney's "Lemonade Mouth"), Leigh-Allyn Baker (Disney's "Good Luck Charlie"), Aiden Mincks (Disney's "Ant Farm" and the film "Hangover 2"), Katherine McNamara (numerous shows and films), Aubrey K. Miller (from Disney's "Austin and Ally"), and Kenton Duty (from Disney's "Shake it Up").

In fact, shooting of the film became hard to miss in the area.
Last Thursday it was the large equipment trucks outside Lakehouse Grille, whose interior had been converted into a fictional comedy club. Local extras were given a look-over by wardrobe staff, stationed at Wesley United Methodist Church on School Street, before being whisked away to the restaurant. There, surrounded by fog machines and camera, lighting, and sound equipment, they were instructed to bring forth various degrees of laughter, after which one of the stars, Leigh Allyn Baker performed a scripted comedy routine, part of the final sequence in the film (which is being shot out of order to accommodate schedules of stars and locations).

As lead actors exited the building, they were surrounded by small groups of excited fans, whose autograph and photo requests they patiently and cheerfully granted.

Friday it was scenes at Culver Academies -- an office and "hospital" (actually the Academies' health center), and Yellow River Farms on State Road 8, converted into a country gas station for the shoot.

Monday was a particularly visible shooting day for the Culver community. The call went out for a large number of extras of all ages, in "fun" festival and summer attire, to play a crowd watching both the start and conclusion of a competition central to the climax of the film. The crew was set up on the town beach well before the scheduled arrival of local extras at 8 a.m., at the park's gazebo. After several crowd shots -- from various angles and in multiple takes -- extras were dismissed for several hours while the crew shot the stars in canoes. Extras were called back later in the day to cheer on the "teams" of stars as they paddled back to the beach.

During shooting, the beach was closed east of the lifeguard chair, and the east area of the park reserved for cast and crew.

As of press time, another day of shooting was planned at the park and beach for Tuesday. Various other locations and businesses are slated for shooting over the next two weeks, with filmmakers scheduled to wrap up by the end of August. The finished movie is hoped to hit theaters by next spring, with a DVD release for summer.

"Little Savages" takes its name from a fictional family of youngsters from Culver, Indiana, who befriend quiet but brilliant young "Albie," spending the summer in Culver alongside his sister Tiffany, at the home of their Aunt Jackie, also in Culver. The youngsters encounter bully Billy Bronson and his "cronies," against whom they will later compete to gain the missing components needed to find a treasure buried in Culver by a late local leader. Along the way, the film weaves in several positive messages ranging from seeing others' gifts beneath the surface, to forgiveness, to the importance of authentic friendship.

For the latest photos of shooting locales in Culver, visit us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/culvercitizen .