For several weeks, White Lightning Productions took over the Redwood Motel in Stephens City, VA. Writer & Director, Jonathan Straiton, was in town filming his third feature film.
Writer & Director – Jonathan Straiton
Executive Producer & Director of Photography – Ron Bonk
Executive Producer – Kirk LaSalle
Producer – Brie Straiton
Line Producer – Brett Janeski
As a small child living in Virginia, Jonathan Straiton always wanted to tell stories. After high school graduation, Straiton attended the New York Film Academy to study in Paris, France. While there, he filmed three 16 mm films and confirmed his passion for filmmaking. He then perfected his screenwriting skills at the Academy of Art in San Francisco, CA.
When Jonathan was ready to start his first major film, he couldn’t think of a better place than his hometown of Middlesex, VA. The feature film, “Big Fish in Middlesex”, premiered in March of 2006 and went on to win nine Film Festival Awards, including Best Picture. “Big Fish in Middlesex” – set against life in a prejudiced small country town; with hilarious street-smart humor, the rules are clear – there are no rules. This was White Lightning Production’s first major release by a studio.
My number one question to Jonathan was, “Why here?” He had a vision of what he wanted the motel to look like and after looking up movie locations along the East Coast on the Internet, he came across two he liked. The first was in New York; however, using that one for filming fell through. So, he moved on to his second choice, the Redwood Motel. He came out to location and met with the owner, Art, and looked over the place as well as snapped a few photos. After the initial inspection, he realized it was the perfect place.
The owner of Redwood had just recently put the motel up for sale. It was said the motel had been in the family for years and having a movie filmed there would be their grand farewell.
All of the filming had been done at night. I spent a week with the crew watching them work tirelessly into the wee morning hours. Needing some serious Zzzzs, the entire cast and crew continuously pushed themselves with a common goal…to make a great movie.
The actors casted in this movie came from all over: New York, Vermont, Illinois and even California. There were also a few who lived somewhat close, such as actress Toni Gambale (Carrie), living in the nearby county of Fauquier.
After spending so much time “behind the scenes” with the film crew, I can honestly say this…I will never again complain about the cost to see a movie! The amount of work involved is indescribable. Hours and hours spent shooting one scene to only wind up as two or three minutes on the big screen. Constantly adjusting lines, lights, sound and cameras to filming the same scene from four and five different angles. In the meantime, everyone else sits and waits. Patience is a definite must in this industry. The time it takes to shoot a scene doesn’t even include the numerous re-takes because a car will drive by and honk the horn or a police siren can be heard in the distance.
I will have to admit, they hired a great group of young actors to star in the movie. They all have loads of talent and no matter what is asked of them, they do it with enthusiasm and perfection. They should all be very proud and I wish them the best in their careers. Spending the week with them and getting to know each and every one personally, I feel as if I have gained new friends and I will miss them all when they leave.
To Jonathan, Ron, Kirk, Brett, Jim, Buddy and especially Brie: Thank you so very much for allowing me to be a part of something I will never forget. All of you welcomed me with open arms and spoke to me openly about your lives and experiences. I wish you great success and I look forward to seeing all of you again at the Premiere. I wouldn’t miss it!
After the filming at Redwood Motel, they still had two other locations to shoot. Jonathan hopes to finish filming and editing by the end of 2011. The big Premiere will be held in Richmond, VA sometime in 2012 and will be in theaters nationwide shortly thereafter.
Ron Bonk is from Syracuse, NY and has a background longer than my arm as an Executive Producer, Writer and Director. He originally went to college for Accounting and then Criminal Justice, but something was missing and he wasn’t satisfied. So, he left all that behind and tried a year of film classes. That’s all she wrote! He himself is an outstanding Director in the horror scene, having directed and produced dozens of films such as “Clay” and “Ms Cannibal Holocaust”. For the past 12 years, Ron also runs a Film Festival in NY, originally called B-Movie Film Festival but is now known as the Syracuse Independent Horror Science Fiction Fantasy Film Festival.
Executive Producer Kirk LaSalle is no rookie in the film industry either. He comes from a very talented family of artists and is also a master in Martial Arts. Currently he resides in Syracuse, NY and most of his time is spent acting. He has appeared in a number of commercials and movies but he also enjoys producing movies and being on the other side of the camera. He has several projects lined up for when he finishes working on “Night of Something Strange”. He is the Executive Producer and Director for “Bad Cookie”. This will be Kirk’s debut as a Director. He will also be a staring actor in the movie “Path to Salvation” (working title). Once those are finished, he will be producing and acting in “Van Man”.
When it came to the make-up and special effects, Jonathan called in the “Master of Make-up” Jim Choate. Jim has over 25 years of experience in the film & television industry. Jim’s work brings him in contact with some of the most famous actors to grace the screen. Actors such as Russell Crowe, Johnny Depp, Gene Hackman, Tommy Lee Jones…and that’s just to name a few. One of the last major films he worked on was “Salt”, starring Angelina Jolie. Jim also has a long list of Independent films, documentaries and television movies he has done. In fact, Jim received Prime Time Emmy Nominations in 2004 and 2007 for Best Make-up for a Television Movie. One being “The Revolution” on A&E’s History Channel.
Watching Brie Straiton in action makes me want to take a nap. Not only is Brie a Producer for the film, she is so much more. She is the blood that keeps the heart beating. Brie handles all the paperwork: shooting schedules, insurance forms, tax records, receipts, release forms, confidentiality forms…enough paperwork to give us normal people a headache. She plays “mom” to the actors: organizes car rentals, flight schedules, meals for the actors and crew, finance and budgeting, wardrobe, payroll, running lines with the cast…and it doesn’t stop there! Brie is also a nurse and a full time mom to two beautiful children. If Brie were to ever star in her own movie, it would be titled Wonder Woman! Oh… and did I mention? She is also married to Jonathan.
Warning: This film is not for the faint of heart and has not yet been rated.
Contains: Violence, Language, Nudity, and Sexual Content
Story & photos by: Joanne Gaudet
© Copyright 2011 White Lightning Productions, Janet Mayson & Joanne Gaudet. All Rights Reserved.