Movie detailing fictional story of life in sex slavery filmed in Osceola County

OSCEOLA COUNTY — Sitting in her normally quiet office preparing for a board meeting, Evart Local Development Finance Authority director Melora Theunick was just feet away from being in a movie. In the conference room next to her office, California-based film directors Joshua and Carissa Stuzman saw their dream come to life as a group of professional actors and a film crew worked diligently under the pair’s direction to film “Chrysalis” last week. The movie details the journey of a 14-year-old sold into the sex trafficking industry, combining real-life accounts of girls who have experienced the tragedy in Africa as well as in the United States. The directors used the conference room at the Evart Airport Terminal Building to film an interrogation scene. “When they asked to film here, I thought it would be a great opportunity for Evart and it would help them out,” Theunick said. “We let them come for free. Anything we can do to bring an influx of people to Evart, we’re willing to help.” The film was written by Carissa Stutzman, whose grandparents, Ray and Sue Gerber, live in Evart. Osceola County was chosen as the location for the film because the atmosphere and setting fit the film’s needs. Along with filming at the terminal building, the Stutzmans filmed movie scenes in the Gerber’s basement, at another Evart residence and in the Osceola County Circuit Courtroom in Reed City where they employed the help of 20 locals to serve as extras. “We’ve been mostly on schedule and everyone showed up who said they were coming,” Carissa Stutzman said. “We had 20 extras and a judge in the courtroom. They all did incredible.” The movie’s $14,000 budget was raised through fundraising campaigns and donations from individuals with the help of a California church. When the movie is edited, it will be nearly 20 minutes long. The directors hope to use the film to promote awareness of the real-life horror of sex trafficking in the United States. “We’re going to try to go to festivals and hopefully we’re going to partner with another film and get it shown in theaters,” said Joshua Stutzman. Grand Rapids-based makeup artist Erick Rodriguez, who completed makeup work on five actors for the film with his sister, Karen, was hired through the Internet to do makeup for the movie. “I advertise online and they found me. When they told me about it, I was very excited to work on this (film.) It’s very touching,” Rodriguez said. “They’re a very nice couple. I love working with them.” The group of around fifteen individuals stayed overnight in the Evart area, some at SpringHill Camps. Getting up as early as 5:30 a.m., Rodriguez, the actors and crew worked as late as 9 p.m. for six days. Working to stay out of the way when filming was in session, but working on touch-ups while the cameras stopped rolling, Rodriguez said the hectic schedule was worth it. “Even though it’s a small crew and we have only five major actors, it’s still a lot of work,” he said. “But it’s been really fun.” Each Osceola County entity that offered a shooting location for the film will be given credit at the end of the movie. Theunick said the experience was a good opportunity to promote the small town of Evart. “Maybe they’ll come back and shoot another movie here,” she said. For more information on the film, visit
www.chrysalisthefilm.com .