CROWN POINT | Tre Manchester was a Crown Point High School student when Randy Ryan was a member of the cast that came to Crown Point to film "Public Enemies," starring Johnny Depp as notorious gangster John Dillinger.
Manchester said he met Ryan briefly, not much more than a friendly meet-and-greet during a lull in the film work. Eight years later, Manchester is now a 22-year-old filmmaker working on a — for Hollywood — minuscule budget film, and Ryan is one of three established Hollywood actors he's recruited to play the key roles in his full-length feature "The Things We've Seen."
"I remembered him, and, from the roles he's played, he just fit the role of Rayford Boem (his picture's main character), who is someone, if something goes wrong, he's going to do it his way," Manchester said.
Also in the cast is Shani Stiles, who was in "Chicago Fire," and John D. Carver, who was in "Sand Castles." Music will be provided by Todd Maki, who scored "Sand Castles" and "A Dog for Christmas," and his orchestra. Most of the other acting roles are played by local people, many of whom have been studying acting with Crown Point High history teacher Don Bernacky.
In addition to teaching history for the past 20 years, Bernacky has had minor roles in a number of feature films over the years, his biggest being as a cab driver in the Superman flick "Man of Steel" in which he is killed when the villain General Zod causes a building to fall on his cab. Bernacky also does stand-up comedy, and, incidentally, he has cerebral palsy.
"Back in college, my wife originally was in film and TV production and asked me to act in things she did for college," Bernacky said. "I did OK, and others asked me to do things. As I worked in the industry, more and more people gave me opportunities."
He loves teaching too much to quit the day job and said he's content to boost the potential acting careers of his students for now. Manchester said he didn't have history with Bernacky in school, but, as he started work on "The Things We've Seen," a lot of Bernacky's students got involved and it led to them getting together.
"Tre came to me last year with the script, and it was really something," Bernacky said.
Crown Point Police Chief Pete Land said he has been working with Manchester and his staff during the filming, including loaning them a police car that was transformed into one more appropriate for the era of the movie.
"I will be also be working on the city's assistance during their filming in Crown Point planned for September," Land said. "The city has been very supportive of the movie and is excited they chose Crown Point to film."
Ryan, Stiles and Carver have agreed to do the film for union scale, but Manchester said he needs to raise about $100,000 to pay for all the costs associated with the film, including the food and lodging for the actors while they are in the region filming at places like the Old Lake County Jail, the Buckley Homstead and Fricke's Bowling Alley.
Donations can be made through two websites: www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-things-we-ve-seen--2#/story and www.kickstarter.com/projects/651894625/the-things-weve-seen. A fund-raising reception also is planned from 3 to 5 p.m. July 26 with the stars present at the Mackey Ballroom of the Old Lake County Courthouse.
Donations for the reception are $10 for adults and $5 for those 10 to 17, and those under 10 will be admitted free. It will be a chance to meet and talk to the stars and the director and have pictures taken with them. Light refreshments will be served, and a trailer for the film will be shown.
Manchester said he hopes to begin final filming in September and wrap up in time to have the film ready for the Sundance Film Festival in January. He wants to enter it in several film festivals in hope of winning some awards that will help him get a national distributor that can get the film into theaters.
He said advances in technology make it possible to develop films in smaller communities and added, "If we can do this, we can develop a platform for more films being done in the region. The difference with 'Public Enemies' is this is not just Hollywood coming here, filming and leaving. This is homegrown talent."