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Sisters who grew up in Kalamazoo start shooting movie in city

July 12, 2004, 3:47 PM

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) -- Dana E. Kowalski felt a little strange returning to the southwestern Michigan city where she grew up to begin shooting the first movie that she and her sister are producing together.

"But it's exciting and it's cool," Kowalski said outside the large, two-story home where the cast and crew of "Kalamazoo?" spent the morning filming on Monday.

Her sister, Joanna Clare Scott, is not only a co-producer but also wrote the script and plays one of the three female leads. The other two are portrayed by Mayim Bialik, all grown up from her days as television's "Blossom," and Josie Davis of "Beverly Hills 90210."

Also appearing in the independently produced film are British acting legend Claire Bloom, Tony Award-winning singer-dancer-actress Chita Rivera and Dee Wallace-Stone, who played the mother in "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial."

"Kalamazoo?" is a comedy that follows three women in their late 20s who return to the city on a search-and-destroy mission. They are trying to find a time capsule before it is opened at their 10-year high school reunion and reveals their unfulfilled goals to their classmates.

Scott, 32, who studied at the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in London, started writing the film in 1999. She and her 27-year-old sister, who has a finance degree from DePaul University in Chicago, spent two years pitching the project to backers.

"We've always been big fans of films, since we were little girls," Kowalski said.

They finally came up with enough money -- their company, Londinium Productions, has budgeted the film at just under $2 million -- to become first-time film producers.

"It's definitely the biggest test of your resolve," Scott said of the often-discouraging process of finding investors.

The sisters decided early on that Kalamazoo was the only place to film "Kalamazoo?"

Scott and Kowalski aren't the only people associated with the movie who have Michigan ties. Director David O'Malley, who wrote the Carl Reiner-directed comedy "Fatal Instinct," graduated from Michigan State University, while Matthew Molitor, the director of photography, is a Kalamazoo native and Albion College grad.

Filming started Saturday and was scheduled to continue in Kalamazoo through early August. Post-production work should be completed during the fall and the producers hope the movie, which does not yet have a distributor, will be in theaters by next spring.

Actor Steven Roy, 33, whose love interest in "Kalamazoo?" is Bialik's character, grew up in a small New Hampshire town and said he felt right at home in Kalamazoo, a city of 77,000 residents.

"I like the simplicity of a small town like this," Roy said during a break in filming. "The people are more genuine."

Keith Coene, the movie's unit production manager, said several local companies have donated goods and services, while city residents have made the cast and crew feel welcome.

"These people are open, they're friendly," said Coene, whose background includes the production of several hundred commercials. "They've been very generous and gracious to us being here, and it feels great."

Ryan Griffin-Stegink, who will study film and computers at Northwestern University in the fall, said he is having a great time working as a production assistant on the film.

"I can't think of a better summer job," said the 17-year-old resident of nearby Parchment.

Filming in the older, upscale neighborhood on Academy Street drew few onlookers, although Mike Tanoff, 45, who lives about two blocks away, couldn't resist walking by the location with his 45-year-old wife, Diane Schear, and their son, Ben, 11.

The couple moved to Kalamazoo about six years ago. Tanoff is a physics professor at Kalamazoo College and Schear is a high school teacher in Battle Creek.

They said it was fascinating to watch the film being shot.

"We think Kalamazoo is a treasure and it's just really, really cool that it's getting a little attention," Tanoff said.

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On the Net:

Londinium Productions: http://www.londiniumfilms.com/

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