Metro-East Living

What if ‘The Golden Girls’ had been set in Belleville?

Actors Relanda Ledbetter, left to right, Donna Delaney Cokenour, Helen White and Janet Baechle work with cinematographer Brett Frager on the set of “The Racket.”
Actors Relanda Ledbetter, left to right, Donna Delaney Cokenour, Helen White and Janet Baechle work with cinematographer Brett Frager on the set of “The Racket.” Provided

Dan Steadman doesn’t just teach acting for film and TV. He writes a movie after his six-month workshop, casts students in it, shows it on a big screen and sends actors down the red carpet.

“Everybody in the class has a speaking role,” he said.

Steadman’s latest project is “The Racket,” a comedy that stars four women, one from Freeburg and three from St. Louis. Another 200 people serve as volunteer cast, crew and extras.

Scenes were shot last fall in Belleville and surrounding communities, as well as a former sand mine in Crystal City, Missouri.

“It was fun,” said one of the four stars, Janet Baechle, 74, of Freeburg. “It really was. We laughed every day that we filmed. The plot is a hoot. I tell everybody, ‘You will laugh at least one time, and hopefully more, I guarantee it.’”

Besides Janet, the other stars are Relanda Ledbetter, Helen White and Donna Delaney Cokenour, all of St. Louis.

Our big adventure was going to the mine in Crystal City. We actually went underground.

Director Dan Steadman on filming “The Racket”

The 95-minute movie will premiere at 10 a.m. April 1 and 8 at the Lincoln Theatre in Belleville. Tickets are available for $8 at The trailer can be viewed at

The student makeup in Steadman’s workshop last year gave him an opportunity to draw on his love of the TV sitcoms “The Golden Girls” and “Designing Women.”

“They tap into our fear of aging and what the end of our lives will be like, but they present it in such an optimistic and humorous way,” he said.

Steadman wrote “The Racket” with his writing partner, Rajeev Sigamoney in Napa Valley, California, after the workshop ended in July.

The story revolves around four older women who get fired from their jobs with a marketing company. They decide to start their own business, selling “miracle water” from a Missouri cave and hiring children as miners and millennials as salesmen.

“Our big adventure was going to the mine in Crystal City,” Steadman said. “We actually went underground.”

The crew also filmed in a restaurant, skate park, church, art studio, health club and historic home in Belleville; a Fairview Heights nail salon; an American Legion hall and even the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle Water Tower in Collinsville.

They spent an hour in the back yard of Patty Gregory, retired teacher and Art on the Square founding director.

There were a lot of lines to learn, and sometimes we had to do several takes. I think seven was our max.

Actor Janet Baelche on starring in “The Racket”

“It was fall, and I wanted to clean up all the leaves and dead stuff, and they wouldn’t let me do it,” said Patty, 63, of Belleville. “I was having a fit. I just hope my mom doesn’t see it.”

Steadman had asked to film in the yard after seeing it in a photo from a garden tour. He wanted it to look natural.

“It was fun seeing all the actors,” Patty said. “I served coffee and doughnuts. One of my second graders that I taught (Joey Eads) was actually in the movie.”

Steadman, 43, is a Michigan native who first came to the St. Louis area three years ago to direct the film “Belleville.” He ended up moving from Los Angeles to Farmington, Missouri, to join the local independent film industry.

His company is called Circa87. It’s a one-man operation, except Steadman hires a small crew for filming, including a cinematographer from L.A. and a sound man from St. Louis.

Steadman teaches acting workshops on the first and second Saturdays at St. Paul United Church of Christ in Belleville and the first and second Sundays at Metropolitan Community Church in St. Louis the first half of the year. He writes, films and edits the second half.

“It feels like I’m running a company of 40 people, but 39 of them call in sick every day,” he said, laughing.

Last year, Circa87 produced “Proximity,” also co-written by Rajeev. Janet had a small role in that movie, as did Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright.

In “The Racket,” Janet plays Winky, one of the four women who start their own business. She appears in all but two scenes, so the hardest part was memorizing lines.

“There were a lot of lines to learn, and sometimes we had to do several takes,” said Janet, a retired systems analyst with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “I think seven was our max. But Dan is the most patient person in the world. He has the patience of Job.”

At a glance

  • What: “The Racket” movie premiere
  • Where: Lincoln Theatre, 103 E. Main St. in Belleville
  • When: 10 a.m. April 1 and 8
  • Admission: $8 general admission or $25 VIP Indie Film Supporter ticket with free DVD, reserved seats, autographed still photo and script cover
  • Tickets: Visit the website at (remaining tickets sold at door if available)
  • Information: Visit the Facebook page at or email to publicist Ethan McDaniels at