Archive for Tuesday, November 21, 2000

Movie alters rural church

November 21, 2000

Last Tuesday the quiet Clearfield United Methodist Church was transformed into the stage upon which the climax of the movie "The Painting" was filmed. The film's crew filled the quaint sanctuary's aisle with lights and cameras and wrapped the exterior of the whitewashed church in a web of extension cords and cables. Trailers with stars painted on the doors sat where Clearfield's congregation members park each Sunday.

"This is good for our congregation's spirit," said Clearfield UMC pastor Shelly McNoughtonLawrence. "It's easy to overlook your own backyard."

Though McNoughtonLawrence's congregation may take their unassuming church for granted, those involved with the filming found exactly the place to tie up their movie.

"We saw a photo of the church through the film commission," said production designer Allan Muraoka. Clearfield UMC was chosen because it matched the period that the story takes place. "The architecture and the location fit."

Clearfield United Methodist Church was chosen by film scouts who drove down County Road 1061 on their way to the Maple Leaf Festival each year. "This is the ripple effect of local tourism," McNoughtonLawrence said.

"The Painting" is set during the civil war. The movie begins with the death of Randy Barrington's (Heath Freeman) mother. The film follows young Randy's life and his move to live with his wealthy father, the conservative Randolph (Charles Shaughnessy). Thomas Ayers (Clifton Davis), the family's African American chauffeur rears Randy. Randy falls in love with Hallie (Stacey Dash), a member of Ayers' family. In the end, Ayers donates money for the rebuilding of the church. The scene filmed at Clearfield United Methodist Church is the dedication service.

Unit Production Manager Brad Slaughter noted the importance of the Clearfield church.

"This scene is the climax of the entire film," said Slaughter, noting the full gospel choir that sings at the dedication of the newly rebuilt church. "There's a fantastic rendition of Amazing Grace."

Slaughter, who works with Bark Productions in Kansas City, said the Los Angeles and Kansas City crews had a wonderful break while filming in the area.

"We were in Mission Hills, Tonganoxie, now here, it's been a great experience," he said.

The movie, written by Morris Taylor, is scheduled for release next spring. Filming began on Oct. 11 on a five-week shooting schedule and a $2.5 million budget. The film boasts an experienced lineup of actors including, Clifton Davis (television's "Amen"), Broadway star Ben Vareen, Stacey Dash ("Clueless"), Charles Shaughnessy (TV's "The Nanny") and Debbie Allen ("Fame").

According to show-business veteran Clifton Davis, the short schedule and low budget hasn't hindered the film's competent cast and crew.

"The cast is absolutely amazing," said Davis. "Everybody gets along. The film is shot with such camaraderie."

Producer David Rose has seen the product of that camaraderie. He's thrilled with the way the shots look on film and excited to see the church scene.

"This scene wraps up the movie in a wonderful way," said Rose. "It's a message of hope and love."

Davis' character, Thomas Ayers, personifies the hope that climaxes in the last scene.

"What keeps my character going is his faith. It's my briar patch," said Davis, who is not shy about his own faith.

Sitting in the front of the sanctuary, he treated the hardworking crew to a song from his soon to be released gospel album. The music broke through the repetitious hammering and drilling on the set. Slowly, the construction ceased and the sanctuary's foyer filled with onlookers. The production team turned off their cell phones and smiled. Everyone basked in the soundtrack of a job well done.

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