POST FALLS - When Marvin Tyacke learned that the "American Romance" thriller was going to be filmed south of Post Falls, he wanted to help out in any way he could.
The retired Post Falls senior was persistent in his pursuit, making multiple trips on windy Blossom Mountain trying to find the filming site and making several calls to those involved.
When Tyacke finally hit paydirt, he found a welcoming crew and was invited to stay for lunch.
"This lady came up to me and said, 'Would you like to have a lunch, partner?'" he said. "I said, 'No, I'm OK, but I'd like to see Daveigh (Chase, the lead actress in the movie) if she's here."
Turned out that Tyacke was speaking to her.
After blushing to the 23-year-old Chase, who was the voice of the Hawaiian girl Lilo Pelekai in the Disney animated feature "Lilo & Stitch," he had a message for the actress.
"I told her, 'You're going to make it to the top,'" Tyacke said. "She almost started crying and everybody applauded.
"That's the way I met (the crew) - with my big mouth. Later on, she personally thanked me (for the comment)."
Tyacke, who is fascinated with the movie business and has acted locally, has found a temporary family of sorts.
He's a volunteer cleaning up the site with his pickup and worked out a deal in which he's getting paid for gas. He was also asked to fill out an application, so there's a possibility he could play a minor actor role in the movie and move into a temporary paid position.
Tyacke isn't worried about how far his involvement will go. He's just thankful he was accepted to help out at the filming site featuring old commercial and residential buildings on George and Bonnie Nipp's property (formerly owned by the late Fred Plonske) along the Spokane River.
"They treat you like one of them," he said. "It's a wonderful place to be. It's been some of the best times of my life."
'The start of a bad day'
The independent movie, which co-producer Crawford Anderson-Dillon calls a darkly comic thriller scripted in the same vein as "Fargo," is about young newlyweds (played by Chase and actor Nolan Gerard Funk) who drive across America when their car breaks down. They cross paths with others while seeking help.
"It's the start of a bad day," Anderson-Dillon said.
Chase said she was excited to earn a lead role in the film because it fits her strengths.
"I can identify with the character's energy and wildness," she said.
Anderson-Dillon said it's difficult to say when the movie will premier, but his best estimate is in a year.
The filming has come together well, thanks in part to the local hospitality, Anderson-Dillon said.
His mother lives in Post Falls a few miles upstream from the filming site.
Chase, who was raised in Oregon, calls her return to the Northwest for the filming "refreshing."
"Everybody is so friendly - some other places not so much," she said.
Anderson-Dillon has been working on the movie for three years. He and co-producer Gary Sugarman scouted local site options in July.
The Post Falls property was offered at little cost, whereas sites in Los Angeles charge $3,000 to $4,000 a day. Anderson-Dillon said the cost to fly the crew and equipment to Post Falls made it about a wash financially, but the local setting pulled North Idaho ahead.
"You can't get buildings like this down there," he said. "Southern California has been shot to death and, when you're a low budget film, you want to be different."
Anderson-Crawford said about $1 million will be spent on producing the film, which is about average for an independent movie.
Right mix comes together
Along with the perfect setting and a "quirky" script intended to appeal to a wide audience, especially those 25 to 45 years old, Anderson-Crawford said he has high hopes for success because Chase and Funk are on the brink of becoming big-time actors.
"Our attention is not on violence, but the characters and their relationships with each other," he said.
Eighteen local people have been hired for the filming with positions ranging from technicians to makeup artists to lighting. Another 20, including those with the Hub Media production firm and the cast, made the trip to North Idaho. Others involved are volunteers and local film enthusiasts hoping to be in a few scenes.
Mark Watson of Idaho Grip and Lighting in Sandpoint was working on a job in Portland, but shifted gears when he heard a legitimate film was being shot locally.
Crawford-Dillon said Watson is making less money than he would on a similar lighting job elsewhere. But Watson agreed to jump on board because it's not often movies are shot here and this could spark more activity for the local film industry that has sputtered in recent years. A state incentive program aimed at boosting the film industry sunsetted.
"There's not a lot of work to rely on for this business around here," Watson said. "This (movie) will create a better understanding of this area. It's great to support them wanting to be here."
W.J. Lazerus, president of the Northwest Independent Film and Video Entertainment Society (kNIFVES), said the filming is a big deal to the local industry as it has been five years since the bulk of a movie has been shot here. That was "Teenage Dirtbag" shot at Coeur d'Alene High. It was based on a true story on the challenges of mental illness.
Among the individuals, companies and groups that have offered discounts or free services during the filming include Angelo's Ristorante, kNIFVES, GuestHouse Inn, The Coeur d'Alene Resort, Dave Smith Motors, Merwin's Towing, Western Peterbilt and Bobby Wilhelm.
"Idaho is an incredibly friendly state," Anderson-Crawford said. "That has allowed us to be better."
'American Romance' cast
Here are some of the cast members in the "American Romance" thriller being filmed south of Post Falls:
* Daveigh Chase - the voice of the Hawaiian girl Lilo Pelekai in the Disney feature "Lilo & Stitch;" Rhonda Volmer in the HBO series "Big Love;" Samantha Morgan in "The Ring"
* Nolan Gerard Funk - Hunter Clarington in the musical comedy-drama TV series "Glee;" Conrad Birdie in the 2009 Broadway revival of the musical "Bye Bye Birdie;" Luna in the third movie in the "Chronicles of Riddick" series with Vin Diesel; played a role in "The Canyons"
* John Savage - Steven in the 1978 film "The Deer Hunter;" played a lead role in "The Onion Field" in 1979
* James Duval - Miguel in "Independence Day;" Frank in "Donnie Darko;" role in the Gregg Araki trilogy