Another Elgin-produced movie makes its debut
By Dave Gathman firstname.lastname@example.org March 3, 2013 5:24PM
Sandra Burke of Chicago picks up her tickets for the premiere of "Recalculating" Saturday at Marcus Elgin Theatre. | Mary Beth Nolan~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 5, 2013 6:16AM
ELGIN — The people who released the feature-length Elgin-made movie “Dark Before Dawn” a year ago again took over part of the Marcus Elgin Theater on Saturday to introduce an Elgin- and Plato Township-made film about a woman who runs without legs.
About 150 people attended a screening and discussion of the 20-minute film “Recalculating” and other projects done by Blue Damen Pictures and its founder/film director, former Hoffman Estates resident Gwydhar Gebien. “Recalculating” stars Chicago actor Ron Dean as a tough, aging man plagued by guilt about having caused a traffic accident that (he thinks) crippled his athlete daughter years before.
Pete Garlock, the Elgin Area Convention and Visitors Bureau staffer who starred in “Dark Before Dawn,” plays the man’s son, who urges him to reconcile with the daughter and gives his father a GPS unit to show him how to get to her house.
The daughter herself is played by Katy Sullivan, a 37-year-old Chicago actress who was born with only stumps of legs above the knee but became so proficient at walking and running on prosthetic limbs that she became a star in the real-life Paralympics.
“Recalculating” was filmed in 10 days in May 2012. Locations included the Elgin Public House restaurant, Presence Saint Joseph Hospital and The Centre of Elgin. The Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Muirhead Farmhouse in Plato Township served as the daughter’s not-exactly-typical home.
“It’s always nicer to be a nice guy than a bad guy,” said the crusty-looking but sensitive Dean. “And I got to play a father for a change instead of a thug.”
Now 74, Dean has played character roles in TV shows like “Chicago Fire” and movies such as “The Fugitive.” But he admitted he is best known for playing the Notre Dame football coach who started the chant “Rudy! Rudy!” in the 1993 sports classic “Rudy.”
More recently, Dean played the first man knocked down when Heath Ledger’s The Joker turns a party into a bloodbath in the Batman film “The Dark Knight.”
In fact, that was where Garlock, who serves as a board member of Blue Damen Pictures and dabbles in acting when he’s not working for the Elgin visitors bureau, first met Dean. Garlock played the party planner in “Dark Knight” and spent many takes standing over Dean’s fallen body in the party-massacre scene, he recalled Saturday.
When Gebien and Co. started planning “Recalculating,” Garlock suggested Dean for the lead role.
Dean recalled performing at the now-gone Chateau Louise Resort in West Dundee when he was in the Second City comedy troupe in the 1980s. “I was the understudy for George Wendt,” he said.
Gebien said that several years ago she came up with the general idea for a short film about a GPS unit guiding a hero toward a reunion, and she asked screenwriter Jan Schumacher-Kaschner to write a script. At first, the story was about a man feeling guilty over having injured his wife in the accident.
But when the producers decided on Sullivan for the other role, they saw the 37-year age difference between Dean and Sullivan and decided to convert the wife into a daughter.
Seen from audience
After being born without lower legs, Sullivan said, she grew up in Alabama and always wanted to be an actress, with the Paralympic racing just a sideline. After studying theater at Webster University in St. Louis, she landed a behind-the-scenes job at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. That led to a role as a disabled person in a Goodman play directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman. When Blue Damen’s Schumacher-Kaschner happened to see that play, the screenwriter realized this could be the perfect person to play the injured woman in “Recalculating.”
“She sent a note to me backstage, asking if we could meet,” Sullivan recalls.
Sullivan said her husband, Jim Cramer, attended Dundee-Crown High School in Carpentersville and his parents now live in Elgin. “So the chance to film here was like a homecoming for my family,” she said.
Gebien said “Recalculating” cost about $30,000. She said $25,000 of that came from a grant from the Florence B. and Cornelia A. Palmer Foundation, arranged by City Councilman John Steffen.
She said DVDs of “Recalculating” will be available at www.bluedamen.com, and she hopes to enter it in film festivals. She first met Garlock when her short film “The Visionary” won third prize in the first Elgin Short Film Festival in 2009.
She said “Dark Before Dawn,” which was filmed all over downtown Elgin in 2011, will be the closing entry for the Los Angeles Women’s Film Festival this year. That drama also is available on DVD through the company website.
Meanwhile, Gebien said she has moved to California and works daily to make contacts in the film industry for Blue Damen Pictures. But its production base will remain in the Chicago and Elgin areas.
Gebien said Blue Damen’s next project will be a full-length comedy film about a renaissance fair. That will begin shooting in summer 2014.