By Grace Kuikman ∼
This month, prolific local author Dennis Foley will premier his movie, “Not a Stranger,” at the Beverly Arts Center. “It will be more than just a movie at the BAC,” Foley said. “It’s going to be a blast!” Filmed in the neighbor using many locals in the cast as well as crew, a lot of our neighbors feel like we have something when the house lights dim and the film rolls in the Beverly Arts Center Baffes Theater.
“Not a Stranger” will be screened Fri., June 10, Sat., June 11 and Sat., June 18, 7:30 p.m. Each screening will kick off with a band and be followed by a Q&A and reception. The Friday night showing is sold out, but as of Villager press time, tickets are still available for June 11 and 18 screenings.
“Not a Stranger” is the story of a high school teacher who is down on his luck and three 12-year-old boys who befriend him.
“It’s a story that gives you a sense of hope that everyone needs,” Foley said. “[The movie] has the look of a major motion picture, and that’s cool.”
Actor James Russo (“Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” “Donnie Brasco,” “Public Enemies,” “Beverly Hills Cop”) plays the lead role and directed. Locals who landed plum acting roles include St. Barnabas 8th grader Matt McGuire and actor/writer Pete Burns, a former Second City cast member.
Naturally, Foley brought many of the local cast and crew into the project. Foley knew McGuire because he had coached his older in basketball. “Matt was one of the three lead kid actors,” Foley said. “James Russo was really impressed. Pete Burns has a really good acting and writing background – he plays a Chicago Police detective – he’s in some of my favorite scenes.”
Local talent got a chance to shine behind the scenes, too. U of I film student Mac Mueller got directing experience that will look great on his resume.
Neighbors who see the movie are sure to love seeing everyday community places on the big screen. The film was shot at several neighborhood locations including Ellie’s Café, Sutherland School, Janson’s Drive-In and St. Barnabas Church. Foley loved bringing the movie people to Beverly/Morgan Park for the filming, “The Hollywood people were blown away by the neighborhood,” he said. “The people, the homes, the greenery – they really had an appreciation for what we have to offer here.”
Foley did stray away from the neighborhood to shoot scenes at the Evergreen Park Police Station and Vito and Nick’s pizza.
As much fun as it was to make the movie, Foley is a writer at heart. “Looking back, I certainly enjoyed the writing process more than the movie making process,” he said. Making movies takes a long time and a lot of “takes” as well as editing and adding sound effects and music. “The first time seeing lines read it was pretty cool, but the tenth time, not so much. When I saw the final product I was really exited again.”
Foley started writing seriously when he was in graduate school at Columbia College. In 2004, he published “The Street & San Man’s Guide to Chicago Eats,” a book of city-wide restaurant recommendations from his days on a city electrician crew. “The Blue Circus,” Foley’s first screenplay was also inspired by his career as a city electrician and also his work as a Cook County State’s Attorney. It won a gold medal for Best Original TV Pilot in the 2013 Beverly Hills Screenplay Contest. He is currently reworking the screenplay into a novel.
While Foley is not expecting that ‘Not a Stranger” will an Oscar contender, he’s confident that viewers will enjoy the film and its message of hope.
Tickets for “Not a Stranger” are $15 ($12 for Beverly Arts Center members) and available at www.beverlyartcenter.org.