Small Town Hollywood


Alexandra BoylanIt is completely against the grain of Hollywood to go to a small town to make a movie. Especially when that town doesn’t even have a film community. But one of the many highlights of shooting my most recent film was working with a very small community in the Chippewa Valley area of Wisconsin. We broke the rules in this area, and we succeeded because we had faith in ourselves and the people we surrounded ourselves with.

Crazy to think only a few months ago I was sifting through resumes and headshots lining up the soon to be cast and crew for “The Elijah Project.” Most of the resumes were from people who had never set foot on a movie set a day in their life, and to be honest, I was a nervous wreck leading up to day one on set. Half of our crew had never done film work before, and most of our cast was beginners. We handpicked people based on their willingness to learn, and their enthusiasm for the project.

Our instincts proved right when day one rolled around and everything ran as smoothly as an average Hollywood movie set. Our new team jumped into their positions with gusto and confidence, excelling beyond our expectations, using their applicable skills to perform a job they had never done.

We traveled in most of the heads of each department from out of state, and it was exciting to watch them lead the way, teaching skills to people who would never normally get the opportunity to work on a large movie set.

In the beginning of developing this project we looked at many states that had film incentives. Massachusetts, New Mexico and Louisiana, to name a few. But after my writing partner and I had spent the winter in Chippewa Falls writing the script with my sister, who happens to live in the town, word got out about the movie. So many people reached out to us, asking how they could help, that we chose Chippewa for the location for the movie. A huge element of our movie was football, and since we had such a small budget to work with, when the local semi pro teams agreed to be in our film, that really got the ball rolling. We met with locals about using their houses in the film, along with a private Catholic High school, and that sealed the deal. We made the decision to shoot the film in Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls, and the in kind favors we received out weighed the film incentive’s other states offered.

Everyday we put up notices on Facebook to the community for things we needed (also an amazing tool for indie filmmakers), and it created a beautiful bridge between a film crew and a community eager to be involved. It gave people the ability to be included and to our amazement, requests were granted with open arms. One day while shooting at the local high school football field, we were in desperate need of a gator for a tracking shot. The one we had secured with the school broke down before we arrived, and immediately we started making phone calls to local’s and put an add out on our Facebook page. Within hours a man showed up with a tow track, he unlatched the back of the truck to reveal a gator, and said, “I heard you needed this.” This is just one of the many stories of how this community came through for our movie.

This experience has given me a new outlook on bringing a film to a small area. Not only because the town was excited to help, instead of finding ways to hinder the production, but also because throughout this journey friendships were developed in the most unexpected ways, passions were discovered, and talents created.

A film set uses so many different people’s abilities, utilizing the skills of such diverse talents as a writer, forklift operator, hairdresser, and even someone who can brew a good cup of coffee. There is an adage that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, the same can be said for making a film. That is why it makes sense to use a community, and pull from the talents in that town.

It was exciting to witness people who never in a million years would have thought to go after work in the film biz, find a passion they never knew they had.

When searching for the head of the hair and makeup department, it only made sense to hire a woman who owned her own salon. Even though she had never done hair and makeup for the screen, she had years of experience doing this job for a living. The director sent her some websites on how to create looks for film, and with just a few days of research she was ready to perform on our set. An opportunity that she would have never gotten had we not decided to shoot in her town. The head of our Art Department was also a local hire, and she used the skills she learned from serving in the US Army to survive the rigorous hours on a movie set, and nothing got past her insane attention to detail.

Many of our first time crew members had a lot of theater experience, and everyone utilized the Internet to learn how to conquer a film position for the first time. Everyone has to start somewhere, and bringing this movie to a small town gave opportunity and experience to locals eager for the chance to work on a film set. I am extremely proud as a producer to have nurtured people and encouraged them that they could do their job without fear, because we were all in this together. Believing and encouraging people is the first step to building a team that will be self sufficient and confident in their abilities.

I went from being afraid, to being grateful we shot “The Elijah Project” in the most unlikely place. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people, and a more embracing community that surrounded our movie with love and generosity. It truly was a special experience for everyone. In turn, our film looks amazing, all because of the kindness and talents of a small community.

I am a big believer in breaking the rules in the Hollywood handbook. I love when people tell me something isn’t possible, or that it’s a bad idea, because then our team turns around and proves them wrong. Don’t be afraid to go outside of the box! Find a unique way of accomplishing your dream project. Fear holds us all back, everything is possible, and when you remove fear from your mind, you can reach far beyond your imagination. Don’t be afraid! Reach out to the community around you; you never know what gems may be hiding just out of your sight.

Please follow “The Elijah Project Movie” on Facebook, take a look at our on set photos and news articles, and keep up with the process as we move into post production.

And to view our cast and crew list please visit our imdb page.