Movie to be filmed in Osceola County

Directors seek local extras for courtroom scene

  EVART — Osceola County will serve as the background for a short movie when two California directors film the production in the area early next year. The dramatic story, which is not set in Osceola County, will document the life of a teenager sold into sex slavery. Titled “Chrysalis,” the movie combines real-life accounts of girls who have experienced the tragic life of the sex trade industry in the United States. The film was written by Carissa Stutzman, who has family in Evart and will co-direct the movie with her husband, Joshua. “There is a large hidden sex trafficking industry in the United States that a lot of people don’t know about it,” Joshua Stutzman said. “We want this film to be a great story that brings awareness about a hidden issue.” The crew will film the entire movie from Jan. 5 to Jan. 9, 2013 in Evart and Reed City, which was chosen as the location because the atmosphere and setting fit the film’s needs. Many people are needed to serve as extras in the film. When finished, “Chrysalis” will be nearly 20 minutes long. The movie’s $14,000 budget was raised through fundraising campaigns and donations from individuals with the help of a California church. After the movie’s budget was secured, the Stutzmans began searching for a location to shoot the film. “We needed a basement for our main scenes, and there are no basements in California,” Joshua said. “We wanted it to be authentic rather than have to build something that looks like a basement” Searching out of state for their film location, the pair turned to family for help. “We found that our family in the Evart area had the exact basement we were looking for,” Joshua said. “We ended up finding all of our (shooting) locations in the area and everyone helped us out.” The team will shoot the majority of the film at the home of Ray and Sue Gerber, Carissa’s grandparents, who live on 100th Avenue in Evart. “I grew up going there to visit my grandparents and I know the town very well,” said Carissa, whose Evart friends knew her as Carissa Hawley. Along with filming at an Evart residence, the crew also will film an office scene at the Evart Municipal Airport Terminal building and courtroom action in the Osceola County Circuit Courtroom. The crew hopes to gain as many extras as possible for the courtroom scene. The room’s maximum capacity is nearly 80 people. “When they contacted us to film here, we were surprised,” said Osceola County Clerk Karen Bluhm. The inquiry was the first time the county had been approached by filmmakers wanting to use its facilities. Bluhm brought the idea to the board of commissioners, who approved the request at a meeting last month on the grounds that it would not interfere with any scheduled court proceedings. “I was pleased that the board was open to it,” Bluhm said. “We don’t just let anybody use those facilities. I think they saw it as an opportunity to support the film industry and bring big film making to rural areas.” Aspiring to advance as a director team in the film-making industry, the Stutzmans have a variety of experience with small productions. Joshua, who grew up in Indiana, has directed a short documentary in Sao Paulo, Brazil, served as cinematographer for a feature documentary in northeast Africa, assistant editor and camera assistant for a feature underwater documentary and various production and camera assistant work on commercials. Carissa, who grew up in Midland, directed a film that took first place in the Omaha Film Festival in the dramatic category and competed in other festivals. The duo met in Sudan, Africa, when they were each directing separate documentaries. Joshua and Carissa currently live and work in Malibu, pursuing their passion for film. “We’ve directed other films, but this is the first film of this caliber we have done,” Joshua said. Carissa, who has had a love for film and script writing since she was young, got the idea for “Chrysalis” after seeing first-hand the agony of girls in the sex trafficking industry. “A year ago we went to Africa and met these girls who were sex slaves to men,” Carissa said. “I started writing about that, but then I realized this same thing is happening right here in America.” Carissa sought American women who had been through the horrific industry. Talking with them and others who knew about sex trafficking in America fueled her passion and gave her inspiration for the script. “I found some girls who had gotten out of it and have escaped into safe houses. They told me their stories,” Carissa said. “I talked to local law enforcement and they said it is a big issue, but no one really talks about it.” Piecing the stories together, Carissa created “Chrysalis,” the story of one girl’s journey into and out of sex slavery. “It’s about a fictional character named Riley who is 14 years old and was taken from her home and put into sex trafficking and these two women help her get out of it.” Carissa said. The script took about three months to write, and was altered many times before reaching its current version. “Lots of re-writing, lots of scratching stuff out. It changed so much, but we’re really happy with where it’s at right now,” Carissa said. After the movie is finished, the directors plan to take the film to festivals, showcase it to producers and companies to promote awareness that sex trafficking exists in the United States. “We have really great locations and people have been really great helping us. It’s the perfect place to film,” Carissa said. “We’re very excited.” The pair also are interested in offering young people interested in getting a glimpse into the filming world, the chance to sit in on and help with the production process. “Being from small towns, my wife and I know it can be hard to get into the film experience,” Joshua said. “We’d like to give people an experience.” Those interested in being in the courtroom scene should be available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Jan. 7, 2013 at the Osceola County Courthouse. To be an extra or help with the movie, people can call (574) 265-5367 or email For more information on the film, visit