Independent movie “Food” filming in Champaign

The+crew+members+of+the+film+Food+work+on+set+at+Memorial+Stadium.+By+Kayla+Burns

The crew members of the film “Food” work on set at Memorial Stadium. By Kayla Burns

By Kayla Burns

When most think of Memorial Stadium, thoughts of the Fighting Illini football team playing on Saturday afternoons come to mind. Yet, this summer, the stadium and other local areas are serving a different purpose. They are being used as locations for the filming of “Food.”

“Food,” written and directed by Daryl Wein, stars many big names including Taylor Kinney, Zoe Lister Jones and Beth Grant.

The independent film is being produced by Shatterglass Studios of Champaign. The film centers around a Midwestern mother and her journey to uncover her son’s mysterious illness.

Producer Brett Hays is an Illinois alumnus and has worked for Shatterglass Studios for eight years. Hays was first approached about the film by director Wein and star Lister Jones, who are dating, about two months before filming began.

“The last couple films they did were really, really well known and did really well and were just overall great films,” Hays said. “Once I read the script, I thought it was just fantastic. I told them the film needed to be made, whether it was with me or not.”

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    Once the film was put into motion, the next choice was location.

    “It took convincing to film in Champaign,” Hays said. “They wanted to film in Chicago originally because they’re from New York and L.A. and when most people think of Illinois they think of Chicago.”

    Hays said, given that the film features farms and a university, he knew Champaign has the resources to offer the filming and would be a wise financial choice for location.

    “With the resources and connections that Champaign has, it was a much better choice,” Hays said.

    Although many department heads and crew members have been brought in from Chicago, many locals and students have been employed to work on the film.

    “We need people that can work, 5, 6 days a week, all day long and we can’t ask local people to quit their jobs to film. So we pulled in crew,” explained Hays. “We’ve got some current graduates from the University and others from the community who were available who are working as either interns or assistants,” Hays said.

    One opportunity that the film is offering locals is the chance to be extras in the film. Jason Thompson and his two daughters, Ady, 7, and Maryn, 9, volunteered to be extras because of the girls’ interest.

    “The girls have a long-term dream of acting, so they’re excited for this,” Thompson said. “Singing and dancing are a passion of theirs.”

    Other extras decided to be a part of the film for the unique experience. Erin Tracey and Jami Tanner decided to give being extras on a film a try because it was something they’d never been a part of before.

    One local who is truly having the Hollywood experience is eight-year-old Nick Bonn. Bonn is the son of two University employees and is one of the film’s leads. Nick’s mother, Maria Bonn, said her son was cast by chance.

    “We met the filmmakers when my husband and my son took me out to breakfast and we ended up sitting next to them. They got talking and asked if he’d like to talk to them about being featured in the film,” she said.

    One of the film’s stars, Beth Grant, was approached about the script about a month ago. After reading the script, she immediately called her agent back and said she would love to be involved. The opportunity came at the perfect time for Grant.

    Grant is a regular on “The Mindy Project” and was supposed to work on an off-Broadway play that was being directed by James Franco when a conflict prevented her from doing so. As it turned out, “Food” fit in perfectly with the off time she had.

    Born and raised in the south, Grant currently lives in Los Angeles, but said she wasn’t hesitant to come to Champaign to film.

    “I’ve been to Chicago a few times and really like the Midwest, so I was excited to come,” Grant said. “I’ve loved my time in Champaign. The people are so friendly and kind, and everyone has been going out of their way to do anything to help me, like take me downtown or to show me where to grocery shop.”

    Grant also credits Lister Jones and Wein as part of her positive experience working on the film.

    “Working with Zoe and Daryl has been great because she is a wonderful dramatic actress and he was trained as an actor, so he is really able to help you with your role,” said Grant. “As an actor we really appreciate when we can get hands-on personal help with our role, and he is one of the best with that.”

    The film’s young star, Bonn, has also enjoyed his time on set.

    “I think he’s having a good time filming,” Maria Bonn said. “The days can be long, but he’s made a lot of friends and he seems to be having fun.”

    “He loves working with Wein,” Maria Bonn said. And, after working the past weeks, “Nick’s now saying he’d like to direct.”

    Kayla can be reached at [email protected].