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Cast takes shape for Zumbrota film

Kristi Knudson of Rochester will have a major supporting role as Isabelle, the daughter of Harvey and Mary, the main actors in “His Neighbor Phil” being filled in Zumbrota. Bob Bird learned this week he will most likely be playing the part of Phil. This will depend upon whether a national star decides to accept the role. Director Scott Thompson details the time line for the movie and what to expect in the next two months. (Photos by Sandy Hadler, contributor)

By Sandy Hadler, contributor

ZUMBROTA — Director Scott Thompson of My Town Pictures spoke about the upcoming Zumbrota movie, “His Neighbor Phil” during “Unveiling Night” Tuesday at the State Theatre. The movie will feature local people, along with national stars.

Thompson said he wants to start shooting on March 28 and hopes to be finished by April 17. Asked what will happen if it continues to snow, he said, “Then we will have a winter movie. We aren’t going to stop for snow.”

The movie is described as “an emotional drama with gentle humor, wonderful music and a deep belief in the power of love.” It’s about a couple who manage the historic State Theater in Zumbrota, where they host scores of great musicians.

Mary — who will be played by Stephanie Zimbalist, Thompson confirmed on Thursday — has early onset Alzheimer’s. When Harvey hears her say, “I love you, Phil,” he fears that his wife is in love with their neighbor. Harvey is determined that Phil will not steal Mary away from him, like the Alzheimer’s is doing.

Thompson is completing the script to feature local settings and history. He said the movie will raise the profile of Zumbrota and help draw tourism dollars to town. 

Pam Potter-Langley said her path crossed with Thompson’s online earlier this year through her daughter Lauren. In September, they started talking about Zumbrota as a site for a My Town Pictures production. After two community meetings, those in attendance voted unanimously to move forward.

Potter-Langley noted that committees have been formed and donations have been coming in. She said, “More important than monetary investments, however, is investing in Zumbrota, and showcasing our city to the world.”

State Theater Director Ronda Sand said that a limited liability company has been formed at the Bank of Zumbrota. “The LLC is the brainchild of attorney Paul Rockne, to protect our investors.” Currently, 29 investors each have contributed at least $1,000 to have memberships in the project.

Rockne said the original budget was $170,000. The local contribution was set at $85,001, half the cost of the film plus $1. Thompson will contribute the other half. Only $6,900 is needed to meet the local financial commitment. Production will not begin until that money is in the bank.

Thompson said the historic Covered Bridge, local businesses and landscapes will be featured. He added, “There will be lots of great parts for national and local cast members. The locals will have an opportunity to work with the best movie stars in the world.”

Zimbalist, 57, is best known for her role as Laura Holt in the NBC detective series “Remington Steele.” The multi-faceted actress has appeared in 31 made-for-television movies and numerous stage productions.

Thompson said Ellen Dolan, who played Margo in “As the World Turns,” and country singer Ashlee Hewitt also will have roles.

“They aren’t coming for a paycheck,” Thompson said. “They come because they get to play good characters, and because of their age, many of these women no longer get good parts in a good show. Not only that, but they love being in the small towns.”

He said the goal is for Zumbrota’s upcoming movie to play around the world through Netflix and iTunes.

Auditions for “His Neighbor Phil” took place Dec. 3. The following 18 people have been promised a role: John Perra, Marie Marvin, Bob Bird, Kristi Knudson, Tim Balderamos, Sue Johnson, Logan Langley, Ronda Sand, Aaron Schumacher, Joan Hinrickson-Hellyer, Tricia Stiller, Lauren Langworthy, Linda Kelly, Pam Potter-Langley, Doug Petty, Mark Hanson, J.C. Koepsell and Greta Herbert. The unveiling of these names caused excitement amongst the crowd that had gathered at the theatre and acted as a kickoff to get people involved.