By Missy Wattenbarger
"It was a spur of the moment decision,” said Donald James Parker, a Fairfield Glade resident, who merely weeks ago decided to make a movie that begins filming this week.
The movie, titled In Gramps’ Shoes, has been a dream come true for Parker, a South Dakota native who moved to Cumberland County three years ago. He retired from a career in computer programming that included stints at Microsoft, the Frank Russell Company and PACCAR to write and produce movies. However, like other independent filmmakers, Parker had to put his dreams on hold because of money issues.
"A lot of independent filmmakers are trying to raise funds to make a bunch of movies without great success, and I had been in that boat for a couple of years,” Parker explained. "Finally, I decided I would jump out on a limb and take some money out of my retirement to make this movie.”
In Gramps’ Shoes is based on an idea that came to Parker several years ago. The Christian movie tells the story of a 65-year-old named Ty, who has spent the last 20 years praying for his daughter to let him back into her life. He gets his wish when she finally asks for his help in dealing with a financial bind and her rebellious teenage son, Scott, whom he has never met. Their first encounter leads to a challenge between Ty and Scott, along with other high school students. A two-mile race follows, altering the course of life of the young man as well as the grandfather.
Parker decided to produce this movie with the help of Chip Rossetti of Rossetti Productions, who has a track record of putting out low-budget films in a short period of time.
Rossetti, who is serving as co-director, co-producer, director of photography, editor and actor in Gramps, helped to bring another one of Parker’s screenplays to life in April, which was called Right to Believe. It was Parker’s first official movie and was filmed in Evansville, IN, where Rossetti lives. Parker worked as an actor in the film, leaving Rossetti to the director, producer and editor posts.
"Acting is like an adrenaline rush,” Parker commented.
For the Gramps movie, Parker will play the grandfather as well as work as a co-director preparing the actors prior to filming through online group readings. He has been working hard to get everything ready for shooting, which is taking place exclusively in Cumberland County.
"I plan to shoot at Stone Memorial High School and other locations I’m interested in, like the parking lot of Central Baptist Church, another church in Fairfield Glade, Mountain View Realty, which will look like a grocery store, and Robin Hood Park,” he explained.
It typically takes up to 18 days to shoot a movie, he noted. Parker and Rossetti plan on doing it in seven.
We will have three cameras going at the same time to get everything in one take,” Parker said.
Starring in the film will be Jeff Rose, a popular TV actor and producer; Francine Locke, an award-winning actress who played opposite Tom Cruise in Risky Business and starred most recently in the 2012 feature A Cry for Justice; Andrew Wilson Williams, who played Matthew McConaughey’s son in We Are Marshall; and Grace Etzkorn, who has appeared in shorts and in the TV series “Chicago Fire.”
Gramps will also feature Brittany Blades, brothers Keegan and Gavin Martion, Greyson Turner, Denny Brownlee, Ryan Patrick Williams and local musician Tony Zarola.
"I would like people in the community to be extras in it and come by and meet the cast members. For some, this is their first time to the state of Tennessee,” said Parker.
Parker needs extras as runners or spectators for parts of the movie that will be filmed Saturday, Aug. 17. A track meet scene will take place around 10 a.m. at the SMHS track, 2800 Cook Rd. A scene involving a 5K run is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Central Baptist Church, 1346 South Main St. Anyone wishing to volunteer as an extra should email Donna Botts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"I would like the community to embrace the movie,” Parker concluded.