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Harvey (Danny Roebuck) hugs his daughter Irene (Rachel Storey) as his daughter Isabel (Kristi Knudson) looks on. (Photo by Sandy Hadler)

Reel action takes place in Zumbrota

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By Sandy Hadler, contributor

ZUMBROTA — As clouds moved in on Monday afternoon, the film crew shooting “My Neighbor Phil” hurried to get one more sunny shot of a scene taking place in the alley behind Ronda and Doug Sand’s home on Main Street. The couple volunteered their home for filming.

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In this scene, lead actor Danny Roebuck, playing the role of Harvey, hugged his daughter Irene (Hollywood star Rachel Storey, known for her recent roles in “The Crazies,” “Dead Awake” and “16 to Life”). He put her suitcase in the car, while his daughter Isabel (local actress Kristi Knudson of Rochester) looked on.

In the movie, Harvey and wife Mary operate the local theater. Roebuck is known for his roles in “The Fugitive,” “Matlock” and “Agent Cody Banks.” 

Earlier in the day, producer Scott Thompson of My Town Pictures, who wrote the film’s script, directed a scene in the upstairs bedroom of the home, where Irene and Isabel struggled with mixed feelings about their mother Mary’s early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

The role of Mary is played by Hollywood film star Stephanie Zimbalist, the daughter of Efrem Zimbalist Jr. She is known for her role as Laura Holt in the TV detective series “Remington Steele.”

About a dozen local actors are also featured in the film.

Bill Hamilton, production design manager, moved furniture and hung pictures, which he had bought at a secondhand store in town. He added a lamp from Pam and David Langley’s home, all of which gave the settings their own unique look.

Despite a snowstorm late last week, Thompson said the production was only three scenes behind schedule. He intended to catch up this week.

For consistency sake, crew members removed snow before filming a lawn scene that had initially been shot on bare ground.

Thompson was mindful that they only have until April 17 to complete shooting. At that time, Zimbalist and Roebuck will leave to pursue other endeavors.

Earlier in the week, scenes were filmed at the State Theater, the Zumbrota Telephone office, the Zumbrota Area History Museum and by the front window of Phenomenally Yours.

Ellen Dolan of “As the World Turns” and another unnamed Oscar-winning actor will be joining the cast soon.

Crew members and directors said they have enjoyed a taste of local culture while staying at the homes of volunteers Charlie and Diane Nelson, John and Deb Wilkinson, Kevin and Jenny Kish, Kim and Scott Jensen, Roxanne Bartsh and Dave Zimmerman.

They’ve also enjoyed home-cooked meals and on-site massages to loosen sore muscles, courtesy of locals who have enjoyed playing a role in the production. Lead actors are staying in Lake City and Rochester.

On Thursday evening, Roebuck, who loves mingling with the crowds that often gather to watch the filming, previewed his latest documentaries free of charge at the Historic State Theater in Zumbrota. The first documentary, “Monstermaniacs,” examines the pop culture phenomenon of people, including himself, who collect horror movie memorabilia. The second, “Cave Girl, A Second Journey Back in Time,” is a tongue-in-cheek spoof about the very first film in which he starred.  

A sneak preview of “My Neighbor Phil” will be presented to the public at the State Theater in September or early October. Investors, who contributed more than half of the $200,000 to make the movie, and those who participated in the production, will be invited to a viewing prior to the public screening. 

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