Columbia receives star treatment in making of new film

Actress Florence Henderson smiles for the camera prior to filming a scene outside the Country Financial insurance office on Main Street in Columbia on Friday. (Corey Saathoff photo)

Columbia welcomed with open arms a movie production crew with well-known Hollywood actors as the filming of a dark comedy took place recently at various locations in town.

“Columbia is great! It’s been fun,” actress Florence Henderson of TV’s Brady Bunch fame told the Republic-Times prior to shooting a scene early Friday afternoon at Country Financial insurance agent Shaun Hannah’s office.

The upcoming film, Grandmothers Murder Club, is slated for a late 2016 release and also features Pam Grier (Foxy Brown) and Judge Reinhold (Beverly Hills Cop, Gremlins) in the cast.

The film’s director, Srikant Chellappa, and co-producers Dan Byington and Kevin Lewis, all hail from St. Louis. When scouting the region for a suitable place to film, producers came across the small-town charm and fitting scenery of Columbia’s Main Street.

“We love the aesthetics of Columbia,” Byington said.

Other scenes were filmed at Byington’s home in Fenton, Mo.

The movie is about four widows in the fictional southern Georgia town of Peachville who find strength in numbers when they take matters into their own hands to resolve a housing dispute with a crooked son-in-law.

Scenes were shot over the past few weeks at Charlie’s Carstar, Columbia Market and Country Financial on Main Street. In addition, the Columbia Police Department and Aunt Maggie’s restaurant played significant roles in the making of the film.

“It was really cool to have them here,” said Kyle Rainbolt, manager of Charlie’s Carstar in Columbia. “Judge Reinhold character used my office as his office. They used my shop, two offices, back lot, back shed and fenced-in area on a lot of scenes.Β  They even shot the climactic ending shot out in our back lot.”

Byington thanked the Columbia businesses and police department for being so accommodating during filming.

“Especially Kyle at Carstar,” Byington said. “He went above and beyond, giving us the back space of the body shop. And the grocery store was just perfect for us.”

In addition to the three Main Street businesses serving as locations for filming, Columbia Police Department patrol cars and officers make an appearance on camera. Producers simply replaced the CPD logo on the cars with temporary “Peachville Police” logos for use in the film.

A camera crew spent an entire day shooting both inside the CPD lobby and outside of the station, with officers Ryan Doetsch, Steve Patton and Sgt. Josh Bayer making their acting debuts.

Reinhold’s character even eats a burger from Aunt Maggie’s on film, and the film’s art department worked the restaurant’s logo into the movie.

“They let us move our technical crew in there,” Byington said. “So, we did that (the logo) out of courtesy for them and the great people of Columbia.”

The producers hired a casting agent out of Los Angeles to secure Henderson, Grier and Reinhold for this film. Byington said it was the strength of the script that got each of the actors interested.

“We’re operating on a slim budget, so it was the script that drew them in,” Byington said.

This is Chellappa’s first dark comedy. He has been making films for 11 years, mostly of the action thriller variety.

He said working with HendersonΒ  was amazing.

“She has been awesome,” the director said. “She is very grounded.”

As for Columbia, the director and lead producer of the film had high praise.

“The city’s been really, really helpful,” Chellappa said. “It’s just unbelievable.”
Byington agreed.

“Columbia has such a nice, small-town feel, and it’s just a stone’s throw from metropolitan St. Louis,” he said. “I’d like to live here.”

The producers are hoping for a full theatrical release, but they also understand that the movie-making business is challenging.

“We are exploring all the elements in terms of a release,” Byington said.

For updates on the making of Grandmothers Murder Club, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/GrandmothersMovie.

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Corey Saathoff

Corey is the editor of the Republic-Times. He has worked at the newspaper since 2004, and currently resides in Columbia. He is also the principal singer-songwriter and plays guitar in St. Louis area country-rock band The Trophy Mules.
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