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Film crew comes to Duck Room - no, not that film crew

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 13, 2009 - Blueberry Hill's Duck Room traded in the usual music crowd for cast and crew this past Saturday. Producers, techies, actors and more descended into the basement bar area to begin production on "Doubting Tom," a screenplay by St. Louisan Vanessa Redgrave Roman.

"We're shooting a trailer that's gonna be shopped around for different investors," said Andy Meyer, whose St. Louis-based company, Aunt Max, is co-producing the film with Three Blondes Film of Sauget.

"Doubting Tom" is a romantic comedy that follows the escapades of six friends - three guys, three girls - who play in a dart league at Blueberry Hill.

"The dart league mirrors the games that they're playing in love," said Roman, who is also directing the film. She said the inspiration for the script came from her relationship with her then-boyfriend, now-husband, and from Oscar Wilde's play "The Importance of Being Earnest."

"Doubting Tom" was a finalist in the 2008 Cinema St. Louis CinemaSpoke screenplay competition.

Judee Sauget of Three Blondes Film said she reads 100 scripts a year and liked "everything" about the screenplay. "The cleverness, the bantering back and forth. It made me laugh," she said.

On Saturday, the mood on set, like the script, was light. The hard work of fine tuning lighting, positioning extras and controlling for ambient noise in the restaurant area above didn't seem to faze Roman. "Little more energy!" she said during one scene to a male actor.

Much of the action took place around the bar in the Duck Room, tended for the trailer by Z107.7 radio personality Curt Copeland. Although Copeland doesn't plan to make a switch from radio to screen, he says working in film "would be fun to do here and there."

Jilanne Kraus, who is Sauget's daughter and an actress playing the lead female, Nicole, said that remembering the long days and little glitches of filming with other cast and crew members is all part of the fun. "You say, 'Remember, we did that scene, and the toilet kept flushing?'"

Depending on finance, the production companies hope to begin filming the full-length feature in August or September.

St. Louis is central to Roman's script. Meyer estimates that 80 percent of the filming will take place at Blueberry Hill and said that establishing shots of the St. Louis skyline will showcase the city.

Besides the fact that the script is tailored to the city, Meyer says that it just makes economic sense to shoot in the Midwest. Studios can receive tax credits on 35 percent of their expenditures, up to $4.5 million, in Missouri, according to the Missouri Business Development Program website.

Asked whether he expects more films to come to the area, Meyer says there might already be more filming going on than one would think and advises checking out the Missouri Film Commission website for information on past and current projects. "There's a good amount of filming that is done here, but it goes on under the radar," he said.

Meyer and Sauget are also cofounders of the Midwest Independent Film Initiative, a group that acts as a networking tool for independent filmmakers. They have collaborated on past projects such as the television series "Tracking Andy" and "Small Town Boy, Real American Hero," with Jay Sweet of Real American Hero. "We want to bring more films into the state of Missouri and Southern Illinois," said Meyers.

Anna Vitale is a freelance writer. 

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