August 08, 2012 - The mayor's speech was made up, but music, mood, and swanky mansion were real at a movie shoot last weekend in Springfield Township.
The camera crew zooms in while shooting a scene from the drama Approaching Midnight. They were in town in Springfield Township to film a scene, Aug. 4. Photo by Phil Custodio. (click for larger version)
Jim and Audrey Tanner, who often host parties for SCAMP and other community groups on their sprawling estate, hosted cast and crew of the drama "Approaching Midnight."
"It's exciting, really neat," said Jim, founder of Tanner Building and Remodeling, Inc. who built his family dream home about six years ago. "We volunteer a lot for the community. The people of Clarkston have been really good to us."
"This is a fantastic location," said Sam Logan Khaleghi, director and one of the lead actors. "It's help from local people and companies that makes this work – it's a symbiotic relationship."
Claire Bruce, first assistant director, is a friend of the Tanners.
"They needed a place for a fund raiser scene, and she asked if we could do that," Audrey said. "Why not help a young person out? Hopefully they'll do something in return in the future for Andrea."
"I love it, it's the perfect spot," said Bruce, a film student at Columbia College Chicago, serving an intership in Michigan.
Michigan does not have the film industry incentives it used to, but it still has lots of enthusiasm for movies, said Michelle Lynne Balser, who plays Natalie Church in the film.
"People are so much more involved, they're excited to do it," Balser said. "We've worked with some incredibly generous people - the project is quite amazing."
Jim and Audrey's daughter Andrea, home from her modeling job in New York City, had a role to play in the scene.
"I'm an extra, with some lines," said Andrea, a 2012 Clarkston High School graduate who is starting a three-year contract with Muse agency this week.
"I'm happy to have them here," she said. "I hope we have more films here, with the lake, buildings, and woods. It would be good for a horror film."
"I like it, it's really fun," said Samantha Tanner, 11, Andrea's cousin who was also an extra. "I hope it turns out good."
Mesquite Creek of Clarkston also pitched in, playing the caterers in the scene.
"Anything I can do to support the movie industry in Michigan, I'll absolutely do," said Tony Vitale, owner of Mesquite Creek.
Vitale has a background in entertainment.
"I'm a Screen Actors Guild member," he said. "I'm excited this is going on."
A scene is planned at Mesquite Creek in a couple weeks. Extras are needed – email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
"Approaching Midnight," set for release next year, stars Jana Kramer, country singer and co-star of TV's "One Tree Hill," and Brandon T. Jackson, co-star of the film "Tropic Thunder."
Kramer and Jackson, whose characters weren't in the fund-raiser scene, bring a lot of attention to the project, Khaleghi said.
The film revolves around a group of veterans returning from Afghanistan to confront trouble in their small midwestern town. Production started in May.
"It's going great – we're ahead of schedule," said Matt Childs of Rochester, the film's editor.
They're filming scenes all over the state. A rock quarry in Milan doubled as a battlefield in Afghanistan, and they stopped in Milford to film a memorial service for one of the characters, all with the help of local businesses and communities.
"We've been able to shoot a wide variety of scenes," said Carl Ballou, cinematographer, who used to live in Ortonville and still has family in the area.
"The project is going fantastic, I couldn't ask for a better crew," Khaleghi said. "When you love working with each other, it shows on camera."
"This is fun for me," said Janet Pound, casting director. Pound, who was also casting director for "Gran Turino" and "Red Dawn," is also playing a part – she's the mayor's wife in the movie.
"It's always good to see other side, so that when I'm auditioning, I know what it's like to be an actor," she said.
Jeff Stetson plays Mayor Steven Malverne, who hosts the benefit in the scene.
"Clarkston is a beautiful location – the Tanners are very gracious to allow us to film here," Stetson said.
His character runs the town and may have less-than-stellar motives, but he also provides needed jobs to residents.
"If the villain is 100 percent bad, that's not as interesting," he said.
Dean Teaster, veteran actor, filmmaker and partner in Mr. Sponge Waterproofing of Novi, plays the sheriff.
"I believe in the film," Teaster said. "Sam makes an impression, like a young Al Pacino. He has a good eye for film, editing, a very interesting story. It's always really interesting to meet someone like Sam."
Playing off all of them is Khaleghi's character, Army Staff Sgt. Wesley Kent, home after six tours of duty overseas only to find a new war within.
"It's an amazing story with a lot of depth and a great crew," Balser said.
Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.