By Joshua Maloni
A major motion picture will be filmed this month in Lewiston.
"Morning Sun" (working title) will be shot primarily at the Barton Hill mansion, with stops at Apple Granny, Artpark, Smokin' Joes and the Lewiston Animal Hospital slated for the 21-day visit. The film also will utilize Center Street for some shots. Lewiston Police Department Chief Frank Previte and his officers will escort production crews in and around the village.
Production begins Tuesday.
"Alien" actor Lance Henriksen, "Community" standout Danny Pudi and "American Idol" season three finalist Diana DeGarmo will be among the stars headed to Lewiston to participate in the Choice Films movie, which is based on "The Morning the Sun Fell Down" by writer Jon Caren. The lead is actor Neal Bledsoe, who will appear in the highly touted series "The Man in the High Castle." He has acted in several episodes of "The Mysteries of Laura," with past recurring roles on "Smash" and "Ugly Betty."
Tony Glazer will direct "Morning Sun." He shares producer credit alongside Summer Crockett Moore, Frank Sicoli, Joanna Bayless and Allan Chasanoff.
Glazer, Moore, Buffalo Niagara Film Office Commissioner Tim Clark, Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp. President/CEO John Percy and Village of Lewiston Mayor Terry Collesano officially announced the movie at a press conference Monday afternoon at the Red Brick Municipal Building.
Watch the announcement and learn more about the film and when you can watch:
"We know that the Village of Lewiston is a quaint and very vibrant place. And it's a great place to live, and a great place to work, and visit. Now we're finding out it's also a great place to make movie magic," Collesano said.
"We know that it's important for our municipality to support these types of productions, because they bring tangible economic impact to our community, and an intangible effect in promoting our village to a worldwide theater audience," he added.
Glazer said his team was impressed with Lewiston from the first visit.
"When we came to magical Lewiston, we immediately fell in love with it," he said. "We came initially just to see the house - the mansion. But on the way we said, 'Wait a minute. What's going on in the town?' It was just the perfect town for us.
"So we immediately fell in love and felt that it sort of captured all the elements of the movie. We even changed elements in the script to accommodate things that are iconic in Lewiston."
Filming inside Apple Granny will take place Oct. 19, which is convenient, because the restaurant is closed on Mondays.
Michael J. Burke, co-owner of Apple Granny, said, "They came in last week one night with a group of people that were scouting locations. My business partner, Chuck Barber, went over to them and asked them, 'What's this big group? What's going on?' He introduced himself. They said, 'Oh, we're in town; we're scouting locations for a family restaurant.' Apparently, they had been to a couple other ones in the village, and they liked the setup in here, and approached us about doing it. We couldn't have been happier to accommodate them."
At the press conference, producers put a call out to local residents to participate in the "Morning Sun" shoot inside the restaurant. They were instantly inundated with emails. As such, the extras were quickly set; unfortunately, no additional drop-ins or passersby will be able to participate.
Burke said he was pleased to hear producers mention Apple Granny by name when talking about Lewiston.
"We strive to make sure that everyone here gets a good meal. We make that part of our business plan. We walk around and talk to the customers," he said. "It means something when somebody comes from out of town, that has traveled all over the world doing movies, and they say, 'Hey, you know what? We had a great time at Apple Granny's. We're going to do what we can to put it in a movie.' "
The Village of Lewiston is the latest Western New York location to be featured on screen. The sequel to "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" filmed scenes in Buffalo over the summer. Melissa McCarthy was in Niagara Falls two summers ago to shoot portions of "Tammy," while Keanu Reeves visited in 2009 for "Henry's Crime."
"It's a small investment that we make, and the dividends are huge," Percy said. "Over just the past four years, over $10 million has been spent in production dollars in the region. I know last year alone, in Niagara Falls and Niagara County, close to $1.5 million - just spent on the days that they are here. ... That's food in the restaurants. That is them going out and even going shopping. But it's also using local talent. Using local production companies. All of that pulled together really impacts a local community.
"We love when a movie is here; when a production is in town, because it's immediate results during that period."
Clark said it's important to filmmakers that a municipality embraces a production. He said Collesano's attendance at the press conference, alongside Previte and village trustees Vic Eydt and Dan Gibson, was a strong show of support.
"It says a lot for this community," Clark said.
The Buffalo Niagara Film Office pointed out "Potential volunteer background extra opportunities are available to persons 18 years and older who can send a headshot along with their contact information via email to [email protected]."
The film is scheduled to be released in fall 2016. The production company's website is www.choicefilms.com.
Pictured is Barton Hill. The owners, the Finkbeiners, are out of town and have rented out the mansion to the film production company for the duration of filming.