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On Friday, the community that helped make Lake Effects happen, came together.
There were the stars, the filmmakers, the investors and the community folks who just helped out.
There were limos, a red carpet and a community screening of the film.
It was an event right out of Hollywood, but one that L.A could never have. This was one purely crafted by the Smith Mountain Lake community.
Bart Wilner, who along with his wife, Lynn, served as executive producers for the project, beamed as the cast and crew gathered Friday afternoon.
“It’s a culmination of many years and a lot of effort,” Wilner said of the film’s release. “It’s exciting to see it all put into a real product.”
According to Wilner, the real star is the movie and the Lake.
“It is much better than our wildest imagination,” he said of the finished product.
Wilner looked back at how he got involved with the project more than two years ago. That’s when he was approached by the show’s producer, Sara Elizabeth Timmins, out of the blue. Initially, he was very skeptical, wondering “How can you make a movie for such a small amount of money?”
He asked Timmins for references, and he checked out all five. All came back overwhelmingly positive—of her and the prospect of making the film.
More investors joined in.
Wilner believes the film will have big benefits in the future for the Lake area. And he noted how the community came together to support the project, from providing free lodging to the cast and crew, to supplying food and other amenities.
Many just wanted to help out, anyway they could.
Lauren Paul worked as an extra on the film and also eventually became the production office coordinator. “I knew I wanted to be involved with it somehow,” she said of the project. “It was really exciting.”
She said working with the production was a “unique experience” because of how close she and others in the community were able to work with the project. The recent Virginia Tech graduate hopes her work in films isn’t over. Paul is looking for more opportunities and hopes to make a career of it.
Madison Doss was at the cast and crew screening as well. She was a 4-year-old extra in the film. She and her sister, Kayleigh, enjoyed looking through the 1947 Rolls Royce parked out in front of the WestLake Cinema as part of Friday’s event.
It felt like an LA event, but Doss put everything in perspective. At one point, while working as an extra, she fell asleep.
For Lake Effects director Michael McKay, returning to the Lake was “like coming home.
“So many of these people helped us build the film,” McKay said. “It was like flying back to a place where you belong.”
McKay said Timmins talked up the Lake and sold the project to him. “One day it just changed from ‘we should be doing this,” to ‘let’s do this,’” he said.
And, he said, “everybody in the (Lake) community stepped up” to make it happen.
He said the movie appeals to a wide audience because so many “grew up on the same lake,” wherever they might have actually grown up.
Lake Effects, shot at SML and surrounding area last fall, is the story of a family raised on the Lake. The older daughter, Sara Tisdale who is played by Richmond native Scottie Thompson, moved away to Los Angeles to become a lawyer; the younger, an artist, now teaches art at the local elementary school and lives with her parents and their dog.
When their Dad dies in a sudden accident, the older sister returns home to SML to settle his estate. The next few weeks at the lake are filled with discoveries, tears and laughter as the two daughters finally understand why it was important to their Dad that they grow up there. For their Mom, played by Jane Seymour, it is a journey of understanding what the Lake means to her personally rather than through her husband’s eyes.
And there’s the humor of some locals who seek to find a LochNess style monster at the Lake. The film eventually culminates at the SML Wine Festival.
Conductor David Stewart Wiley, music director of the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra, attended Friday’s event. Wiley and the RSO were selected by Timmins to record a portion of the music for Lake Effects. The music included new compositions by Wiley and by Kaz Boyle, a Los Angeles film composer who is also the film’s music director and editor. “We’re thankful to be a part of the project,” Wiley said Friday.
Actor Charles Hooper walked the red carpet and recounted some late nights followed by some early morning shoots. He later heartily greeted Ben Savage, another of the movie’s actors, as he showed up for Friday’s event. Savage was a crowd favorite.
Ron Canada, who plays Winchester in Lake Effects, was pleased with the opportunity to return to SML for the event. “It was absolutely fantastic,” he said of his time working here on the film. “This environment is a real treat.”
He said what an actor remembers about making a movie are the people he meets and the fun times while on the set.
Casper Van Dien, who plays Ash in the film, said the community’s support “was impressive.”
And he praised Timmins’s effort. “It’s really a miracle,” he said of her work.
For her part, Timmins praised the community. “I feel very blessed that things have come together the way that they have,” she said Friday.