LOCAL LOCATIONS: 10 West films faith-based film in Manistee

GBTBR 13

Joe’s Auto Repair is a primary set for 10 West Studios’ new film, “God Bless the Broken Road.” (Courtesy photo)

For weeks there was speculation of a new business opening in downtown Manistee.

There was a flurry of activity on the 300 block of River Street.

In late April residents saw classic cars brought onto the lot that once was home to GT Tire & Wheel.

Next, a pile of tires appeared in the parking lot.

On April 19, Joe’s Auto Repair opened … but not for business.

Joe’s is a primary set for 10 West Studios’ new film, “God Bless the Broken Road.”

“The producers — Harold Cronk, Edgar Struble, Dustin Solomon and myself — have been working on this property now for a couple of years,” said producer Stephen Afendoulis. “It takes a long time to get something prepared and the script done and set up.”

He explained that before a film goes into production, there’s a lot of work in pre-production and preparing the property for filming.

Another primary location was Amber's house, located on Fourth Street in the city. (Michelle Graves/News Advocate)

Another primary location was Amber’s house, located on Fourth Street in the city. (Michelle Graves/News Advocate)

Principal photography on the faith-based film began in mid-April in Manistee.

“We’re all very excited. We have a magnificent cast,” Afendoulis said. “We’re so happy and blessed with the folks who have joined our production from a cast standpoint.”

However, an official cast list has not yet been released to the public.

The film, just one in a long list produced by 10 West Studios, centers around Amber whose husband dies in Afghanistan.

“It’s a story that’s really about something that occurs on a regular basis in life. If there’s anything that causes somebody to question their faith, one of the events in life that does that is when you lose a loved one,” said Afendoulis.

The story follows Amber through the loss of her faith and her journey back to God.

“In a lot of ways this story was shaped around the people who all came together to put this story on paper,” Afendoulis said.

“God Bless the Broken Road” was written by Harold Cronk, owner of 10 West Studios and director and producer of the film, and Jennifer Dornbush, a television and movie screen writer.

“Some of the pieces of the concepts that came into this story fit our producers and their experiences,” said Afendoulis.

Struble spent most of his life in the country music world, and the film features country music.

Afendoulis has experiences in the racing world, which is featured heavily in the film.

In addition to those themes, the military component reminds everyone of the price soldiers often pay to defend the country.

10 West Studio's new film, "God Bless the Broken Road," includes many extras who are from Manistee. The movie is primarily being filmed at numerous locations throughout the city. (News Advocate photo/Michelle Graves)

10 West Studio’s new film, “God Bless the Broken Road,” includes many extras who are from Manistee. The movie is primarily being filmed at numerous locations throughout the city. (News Advocate photo/Michelle Graves)

“One of the things that this story shows, or we hope shows, the loss doesn’t end with the loss of a soldier,” said Afendoulis. “It’s the people that they leave behind and what they have to go through in dealing with that loss.”

Aside from the screenplay, filming locations are a critical aspect of making a movie.

Shelly Newman, of Manistee, is an associate producer on the film and casts for Michigan day roles and background actors.

Cronk has his own ideas of what he wants for locations, she said. For many of 10 West’s films, the two drove around town scouting possible sets.

“Sometimes we’re looking for a specific house or house type,” Newman said.

After the initial scouting, she then passes the information on to the locations manager. For this film, Newman said that Scott Sanders and assistant locations manager Alex Keson did most of the scouting and contracts.

Keson is also a local resident, and Newman said that helps when filming in a small town, such as Mansitee or Ludington.

“It’s a huge help, when people come in from LA, they don’t know little town stuff,” Newman said. “These people are our friends and family and people we know and love and live with. We try to be very careful in taking care of the people we live with who are opening their homes and businesses.”

She said it’s very important to her and other locals who work on the films.

“We don’t take it lightly,” Newman said. “We’re trying to shoot something that’s good and special; something everyone in our little town can say ‘that’s our movie, we made that here.'”

Afendoulis said that there’s a lot of work that goes into acquiring locations and preparing them, such as approval and authorization and, in some cases, lease agreements.

“Where’s our production office going to be? Where are we going to set up base camp?” he said. “All those things have to be done months before we have the entire crew descend upon us and we go to camera.”

In some instances, work is needed at a location before it can be used in a film.

Before 10 West’s art director came on the scene, the former tire shop on the corner of River and Division streets looked like a building that had sat vacant for quite a few years.

“James Cunningham is our art director. It is magical how they can take a location like that and turn it into the place it needs to be, and the look it needs to be, so that when we’re filming it’s what the director had envisioned for the scene,” said Afendoulis.

An agreement, including a location fee, was set up for the use of the property where Joe’s sits.

“It depends on the owner and what they want to charge,” said Afendoulis. “Some people are very generous saying, ‘I don’t need a location fee; I love the story. I love the purpose-driven nature of 10 West, and I want to help the production company out.’ And that’s important to us.”

Most of the filming, which is expected to wrap up this month, is being done in Manistee.

Aside from Joe’s several other locations in town have been used. Scenes were filmed in Oak Grove Cemetery and at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. Another primary location was Amber’s house, located on Fourth Street in the city.

The spacious Victorian home is owned by Michele Massoglia and Colleen Sturgis.

A real estate acquaintance contacted the pair and told them that the studio was searching for a site for the film. After a series of phone calls and texts, a meeting was arranged with the studio.

“It was presented as being a real benefit to a variety of people, as well as the real estate, producers and to us, and to the community. It sounded like a good deal,” said Sturgis.

She said that the whole process evolved quickly.

“They’d already set aside a time that they wanted to do filming, they just needed to find a site,” Sturgis explained. “Once we agreed to roll the ball, it happened very rapidly.”

Afendoulis said that in the film, Amber realizes that her home isn’t the most important thing.

“One of the themes of the movie is a re-examination in life of what’s important,” he said. “The house is very symbolic in the movie because she’s fighting to hang on to it before she comes to the realization that it’s not the most important thing.”

Another location, which involved the use of many extras, is Good Shepard Lutheran Church.

Filming took place inside the church, but some scenes were set outside as well which require special permits from the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Since the church is located on U.S. 31, the City of Manistee applied for a permit to allow for lane closures on the highway.

For about five hours, beginning at 9 p.m. on Wednesday to about 2 a.m. on Thursday, Department of Public Works employees had traffic control devices set up to restrict traffic to one lane and city police officers assisted in directing traffic.

“All costs for this work and other city services related to the film will be paid for by 10 West Studios,” according to an announcement from Jeff Mikula, director of the DPW.

Afendoulis said that the studio works with limited resources.

“We couldn’t do what we do without support from a lot of people, including the Manistee community which has been so good to us,” he said.

avatar

Posted by Michelle Graves

Michelle is the managing editor of the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3106 or mgraves@pioneergroup.com.

Leave a Reply