An independent movie about a grieving Belleville farmer and a stranger from another world who lifts his spirits is just about finished.
Its executive producer has announced that the 90-minute drama "Belleville" will premiere at the old Lincoln Theatre on April 22, which is Earth Day.
"We're going to have a red carpet," said Ted Trentman, 43, a Belleville native who now lives in Los Angeles. "We're going to have searchlights. We're going to have limos. We're going to do it all."
Trentman, who goes by Ted Trent professionally, also stars in the film as Neila (alien spelled backwards).
Lead actress Cooper Shaw, an estimated 200 extras, 35 people with bit parts and the vast majority of crew members are from St. Louis and the metro-east.
The premiere will be followed by 23 showings in the next five days and more through May 8. Tickets for April 22 ($12.50) and April 23-27 ($10) will go on sale today at LincolnTheatre-Belleville.com or BellevilleTheMovie.com.
"I think it's great that a) they made a movie in Belleville using Belleville people and the Belleville name, and b) we're premiering it in Belleville's own theater, which opened in 1921," said Lincoln owner Dave Schoenborn.
Director Dan Steadman is releasing the film's trailer today. It can be viewed at bnd.com. To download and print a high-resolution version of the movie poster, visit http://www.loftlivingla.com/belleville/bellevilleposter.jpg.
Familiar places and faces
The "Belleville" premiere has been highly anticipated since filming took place in October. Locations range from Main Street to Eckert's Orchard, the Skyview Drive In to Bel-Air Bowl.
"I had a sneak peek at the movie, and I thought it was fantastic," said Cathleen Lindauer, the city's tourism director. "I think people are going to cheer it on. It's got a lot of community character, spirit and pride in it."
Lindauer helped with logistics during filming. She sees the movie as a way to promote Belleville if it is shown in other communities or at film festivals.
Logan Short, 24, of Shiloh, is eager to see himself on the big screen. The improv comedian and aspiring actor landed a bit part in the movie.
Short plays a "concerned father." He's being interviewed about Neila, who is trying to drum up interest in a barn-raising-like effort for the farmer.
"I say something like, 'Belleville is a tight-knit community where a lot of people have grown up with each other, so when I see a stranger with platinum-blond hair wearing flip flops in cold weather, I wonder to myself, 'Who is this guy?'" he said.
Short performed in plays at O'Fallon Township High School and studied journalism in college. He was trying to break into show business in Chicago when he broke his leg skateboarding and returned home.
Trentman and Steadman tapped Short to be script supervisor for "Belleville." He kept track of takes and worked to ensure continuity between scenes.
"It was a blast," Short said. "I've never been a part of something where you work two weeks straight for nine or 12 hours a day and call it 'fun.'"
Producer with Midwest roots
Trentman grew up in Belleville but finished high school in O'Fallon. His parents are Robert Trentman, of New Athens, and Jolene and Royce Braden, of Freeburg.
Brother Bob Trentman lives in Belleville. Uncle Gary Trentman owns Gary's Restaurant in Freeburg, which appears in the movie.
Trentman majored in communications at Illinois State University and began his career in gospel-music promotion in Nashville, Tenn.
"I loved acting, but being from the Midwest, I never thought that I'd really have a shot at it," he said. "I honestly thought that movie-making was above me.
"So I thought I would work behind the scenes. I just wanted to be involved in entertainment somehow."
Trentman's next stop was Gatlinburg, where he worked in marketing at Dollywood and as a production assistant on the CBS drama "Christy." The latter prompted him to move to California in 1997.
Trentman supported himself as a portrait photographer, Universal Studios tour guide and occasional actor. He wrote a blog called "Loft Living L.A." and, before long, he was selling lofts.
"I went from making $23,000 a year as a photographer and tour guide to making $460,000 a year as a real-estate agent," he said. "I was like, 'What?' This is crazy."
Story of hope and friendship
The market crash four years ago got Trentman thinking about his long-term goals. He wanted to get back into acting and spend more time with his Midwestern family.
Trentman was auditioning for a movie when he met Steadman, an independent director and screenwriter. Trentman persuaded Steadman to write "Belleville."
"I just decided, 'I'm tired of waiting to produce a movie,'" Trentman said. "I want to do something that's important and something I'm going to enjoy.
"I want to do something that inspires people. And I can't think of a better idea than to come home and get everyone in the community involved in a movie."
"Belleville" stars Los Angeles actor Tim O'Leary as Willie, a farmer who loses his young wife (Kate Barton) in an accident. He becomes a recluse with no friends, except for his neighbor, Arlene (Shaw).
Willie's life takes an unexpected turn when Neila knocks on his door. The stranger from another world has amnesia. They become friends, and Neila tries to help Willie put his life back together.
"I think we've created a special story," said Steadman, 40, of Los Angeles. "(It) touches on universal themes of depression, child-like innocence, gossip, friendship and the hope that comes from finding support within one's community."
Steadman spent time in Belleville last summer, getting a feel for the community and holding auditions. The area reminded him of his home in Michigan.
"Belleville" is being produced by Ted Trent Studios and Steadman's company, Circa87.com. It's not rated, but it's being promoted as "family friendly," suitable for ages 10 and up.
"We're in what we call 'post-production,'" Steadman said. "(The movie has) been fully composed. The audio is being mixed, and the color correction is being done."
At a glance
What: "Belleville," the movie
Where: Lincoln Theatre, 103 E. Main St. in Belleville
When: Premiere on April 22 and more showings through May 8 (tickets now available for April 22-27)
Admission: $12.50 on April 22 ($15 at the door if not sold out) and $10 for all other shows
Tickets: LincolnTheatre-Belleville.com or BellevilleTheMovie.com
Movie trailer: Visit bnd.com
Poster: Free downloadable, printable, high-resolution version at http://www.loftlivingla.com/belleville/bellevilleposter.jpg
Social media: Visit facebook.com/bellevillemovie