‘Stuck’ cast, crew celebrate completion of filming in Macon

Filmmaker Steve Balderson said Sunday he didn’t appreciate how pretty the prairie was in his home state of Kansas until he returned after being in Los Angeles a few years.

“I had that same exact feeling being here in Macon,” Balderson said at a wrap party for “Stuck,” his latest film. “It is so beautiful here. I know some people here want to leave, just like in any other place, but why? The town is so beautiful.”

The party took place at Terrell Sandefur’s SoChi Gallery downtown, and close to 100 cast, crew and friends gathered to remember the work just completed, make connections for future projects and generally relax with Sandefur’s signature cocktail of the day, the “Hangin’ Daisy.”

But more on that later.

Elliott Dunwoody, an executive producer of “Stuck,” said the past three weeks of shooting breezed on by, and he particularly liked the fact there was heavy local participation in the production.

Wife Beth Dunwoody said others in the cast from out-of-town told her they agreed with that.

“I heard them say, ‘This is what filmmaking should be like,’” Beth said. “They clearly appreciated the hospitality from and involvement of the community. I feel we’ve already piqued interest from outside Macon for future projects.”

Jessica Walden, on the board of directors for MAGA, the Macon Georgia Film and Video Festival, feels Balderson’s work and others in the past few months, such as “The Hardest Hitter” and “The Crazies,” can only lead to more projects.

“It’s about the aesthetic value of our town and how appreciative we are,” Walden said. “Yes, it’s the cliche of Southern hospitality, but we’re also small enough to thank them for coming here.”

Balderson said he felt welcome in Macon from the onset of his visit at the MAGA festival in February, and knew he had to come back to make a film.

“I felt a connection with Beth and Elliott, and community support helped make this a success,” Balderson said. “I was excited to be back here. I was drawn back here.”

Echoing the community aspect, but on a smaller scale, was actress Pleasant Gehman, who plays inmate Dutch in “Stuck.”

“I love working with Steve because he has clear vision of what he wants and he’s so easy to work for,” Gehman said. Balderson sent cast members their prison uniforms before shooting began so they could be used to their roles, she added.

“And from the first day there was this chemistry among cast members. It was beautiful,” she said. “That sense of community is vital to the success of a movie. Steve is intuitive, and he knows what you can bring to the character.”

By the way, Pleasant is her real name, Gehman said with a laugh. “I was a pleasant surprise who’s real name was supposed to be Andrew.”

Balderson may be emblematic of the future of filmmaking as a writer/producer/director working on a shoestring budget with a loyal following of co-workers. And admirers.

Brian Morrison, a fellow filmmaker from Baltimore, said he and a writer were asked by Balderson if they wanted to come down to Macon and help out.

“I like to see how others work, and his style is very similar to mine,” Morrison said. “He can spread a penny to a $20 bill and gets the most out of the cast and crew. It’s the future of filmmaking, self-funding.”

Sound man Ty Johnsrud has worked on projects before with Balderson, and said his first impression stuck. “It’s gorgeous here, and that makes it a better experience. I know I want to be here for MAGA next year, and I hope Beth and Elliott let me stay at their home again.”

Oh, the “Hangin’ Daisy.”

Sandefur, who puts on events for a living, said he likes to commemorate each one with something special.

“The Hangin’ Daisy cocktail is named for Daisy, a character in the movie. She’s in prison because she’s condemned to death by hanging. I named the drink after her; I guess I’ve got a morbid sense of humor,” Sandefur said with a sheepish grin.

According Balderson’s Web site, “Stuck” is about a woman wrongfully accused of murdering her mother and sentenced to death.

It’s Balderson’s homage to film noir women-in-prison films, “faithfully re-producing the genre with a modern, tongue-in-cheek twist, expect all the hallmarks of a classic prison movie complete with a wrongly accused heroine, hard-boiled dames, diabolical alliances, forbidden love, cat-fighting cuties, a sadistic warden and corrupt prison guards.”

The movie stars Karen Black, Susan Traylor, Jane Wiedlin, Mink Stole, Stacy Cunningham, Starina Johnson and Gehman.

The release date has not been set.

To contact writer Jake Jacobs, call 923-6199, extension 305.