Hollywood Comes Home

a pro film is being produced in the Chippewa Valley

Caleb Gerdes

JUST A DAY IN THE PARK. The crew for the indie film The Elijah Project has been shooting at various Chippewa Valley locations, including the Carson Park football field.
JUST A DAY IN THE PARK. The crew for the indie film The Elijah Project has been shooting at various Chippewa Valley locations, including the Carson Park football field.

If you find yourself surrounded by a crowd of 30 to 50 strangers all carrying equipment, sipping water bottles and filming each other within various well-known Chippewa Valley establishments, do not panic. If you are on a pleasant walk through Carson Park in the evening with your dog and significant other and see a drone with a camera flying around, you don’t need to duck and cover. It’s not the government (well, probably not). It’s not some guerilla film crew attempting to exploit the beauty of our majestic Chippewa Valley … although honestly, most of us wouldn’t mind anyway. It is in fact a fully legitimate feature-length film called The Elijah Project.

The film crew, led by two movie biz lifers and a local superwoman, have begun the month-long process of filming a feature-length faith-based film which is inspired by the restorative process developed by psychologist Andrea Polnaszek, also a writer and producer for the film. This restorative process, dubbed the Elijah Project, focuses on providing self-therapeutic tools to highly active and frequently exhausted community servants to find rest and peace amidst their service.

Director John K.D. Graham, actress Alexandra Graham, and writer Andrea Polnaszek, the film’s three producers, are awash with excitement about the opportunity to film here.

Although they are producing the film with a teensy-weensy budget in comparison to the money baths typical of Hollywood films, the producers are optimistic about the film’s reception.

I sat down with the Grahams at Olson’s Ice Cream in Chippewa Falls and happened to choose the exact booth that the family in the film will use during one of the shots. The filmmaking couple immediately expressed their amazement at the community’s response to their endeavor.

When asked, “Why the Chippewa Valley?” they said it wasn’t even initially on their list, since Wisconsin no longer offers tax credits for the movie-making process, but while here over the last winter to write the script they were bewitched by our air and discovered the generosity of our hearts. The community’s overwhelming gifts of in-kind donations and willing volunteers opened the Chippewa Valley up as a viable location for filming.

Chippewa Valley locals represent half of the film crew, a highly unusual makeup compared to other Hollywood films. This crew has begun filming already and expects to be at it into July.

Although they are producing the film with a teensy-weensy budget in comparison to the money baths typical of Hollywood films, the producers are optimistic about the film’s reception. Andrea told me she has “a special feeling it could be really big.” Among the film’s others assets, the producers recruited a passionate and talented crew. Two of the crew turned down a lucrative six-month contract to be a part of this process.

Of the crew, Alexandra says there is an energy and passion not seen often on large-scale sets, as those who have chosen to get involved have been inspired, not only by the script, but by the professionalism and dedication shown by the Grahams.

The making of The Elijah Project began exactly a year ago and even after John says the iconic line, “that’s a wrap,” the film will not be ready for theater until next April. So to keep in touch with the project, or if you want to be an extra and maybe get your big break, go connect with the film via its Facebook page. They are always ready and willing to read your messages and answer your questions.

Find The Elijah Project on Facebook at facebook.com/The-Elijah-Project-Movie and watch out for it in theaters in early-to-mid-2015.

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