Mt. Pleasant — a moviemaking town
For 18 days in December, independent film company Narrator Entertainment turned places in and around Mt. Pleasant into movie sets for a feature film.
Jeff Landy, Mt. Pleasant Borough manager, said the municipality has been approached by several companies over the past few months about filming movies in town.
“We think it's exciting to be able to have people look at Mt. Pleasant as a place to shoot a movie. They could have chosen a lot of places, and it's nice to know they chose the Mt. Pleasant area,” Landy said.
Ruffsdale native Jeremy Phillips of Los Angeles is the writer and director of “1/1.”
“It's literally a coming-of-age story of a 20-year-old girl growing into womanhood, understanding her teenage issues and understanding the bigger world. It's really about the moment when you realize there are things outside of yourself,” said the movie's producer, Cassidy Lunnen.
A graduate of Southmoreland High School, Phillips has degrees from Duquesne University and the University of Southern California. He has written and directed commercials and music videos and has written another feature film, which is yet to be released.
He said he was inspired to write “1/1” because of the death of John Hughes, who wrote and directed several hit movies in the 1980s, including “National Lampoons Vacation,” “Ferris Bueller's Day Off” and “The Breakfast Club.”
“That makes that fact that we were able to get Judd Nelson, who was in his ‘Breakfast Club,' to play the father even better,” Phillips said.
Phillips said when he wrote the original screenplay, he pictured many places from his childhood. While he and Lunnen considered filming in Los Angeles, they knew in order to do it right they had to come the region to shoot it.
Several local places were featured in the film, including Smillie's Family Restaurant on Route 819 in Mt. Pleasant, a house and Schaeffer's Corner Market in Ruffsdale, The Endzone in Mt. Pleasant, Mt. Pleasant's Main Street, the Common Wealth Rehabilitation Center in New Stanton and the Minis Training Technology Center in Greene County.
“Schaeffer's Market was written in the script, and when I was writing the script, the character goes into a convenience store, and when I wrote it I had pictured Schaeffer's Market and it's just amazing to be shooting there,” Phillips said.
Schaeffer's Market owner Kristen Ranker said when she got the call about her market being used for the film, she thought they were kidding.
Lunnen said she was impressed with how well they were treated while filming in the area.
The movie stars Lindsey Shaw, who plays the main character Lissa. Shaw is best known for her roles in television, including Paige McCullers on ABC Family's “Pretty Little Liars” and Jennifer Mosely on “Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide.”
“I'm completely enamored with this place. It just reminds me of where I grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska, and I haven't seen snow in about 12 years so it's been really nice to be here,” Shaw said.
Leland Wheeler plays Lissa's best friend, Daniel. Wheeler grew up in Wheeling, W.Va., and resides in Los Angeles. He said he was happy to be so close to home and was able to spend some time there while in the area.
Shaw and Wheeler spoke very highly of the business owners who hosted them, and Shaw said Phillips' mother, Mary Jane Phillips, made them feel very welcome.
Marie Murphy said the feeling is mutual.
“They are the most amazing group of people I have ever met. They are just so full of energy and just so genuinely nice, and Lindsey is just naturally beautiful inside. They just can't thank you enough and are so appreciative,” Murphy said. “The experience is just one of a lifetime.”
Lunnen said 80 percent of the crew was hired in the Pittsburgh area, and many locals worked as extras on the film.
Leah Panzella, 22, of Mt. Pleasant worked as an extra in a party scene shot at The Endzone where she works as a bartender.
“I think it's great! There is a lot of energy, and it's a lot of fun,” Panzella said.
Lunnen said the movie also stars Dendrie Taylor as the main character's mother. Taylor is known for roles in “Sons of Anarchy,” “The Fighter,” “Jarhead” and “Out of the Furnace.”
Phillips said the movie is expected to be released in 2015 and he hopes to have a local premiere.
Linda Harkcom is a contributing writer.