Hometown helps Plano native in bid for film fame
By Valerie Burd For The Beacon-News March 15, 2013 9:24AM
This is Rachel Berg in The Homestead Bed and Breakfast in Plano.
‘Man of Steel’ three months away
The city of Plano plays the role of Superman’s earthly hometown in the newest Superman movie, “Man of Steel,” coming out this summer.
In the summer of 2011, Warner Brothers picked Plano to represent “Smallville” for the new Superman flick. Crews shot scenes in downtown Plano, as well as in Sandwich and around the area, over several days in August 2011.
“Man of Steel” is scheduled for release in theaters June 14.
Updated: April 18, 2013 6:02AM
PLANO — First Superman. Now “Girl’s Blood.”
The city of Plano appears to be on its way to becoming the movie capital of Kendall County, thanks in part to Plano resident Al Benoit.
Benoit, the 23-year-old writer/director of this latest film, says he chose to shoot his movie in the community of some 11,000 residents for a simple reason — it’s his hometown.
Plano Mayor Bob Hausler says he thinks that it’s great his city has someone living there with that kind of artistic ability.
“It’s very exciting to have a Plano resident stepping up and producing a movie here,” Hausler says. “Anything that we can do to help promote that type of thing in our city is good, and we would welcome anyone that would want to do similar kinds of films.”
A fledgling writer/director starting out in the movie-making industry can use all the help he can get, Benoit says. And he definitely found that help and support in Plano.
“The people of Plano sincerely helped me out by letting me shoot the film in various businesses, buildings and on streets in Plano,” Benoit says. “It truly warmed my heart to have their support.”
The eighth film that Benoit has written and directed, “Girl’s Blood” is about Margo, a girl who was bullied in high school by other girls and abandoned by one important male friend. Margo decides seven years after her high school graduation to go back and confront the people who bullied and betrayed her.
Benoit says this is probably the most personal film he’s written. His star, Chicago actor Allie Kunkler, says she found the role of Margo to be very challenging, but the four 14-hour days of shooting in Plano “were a blast.”
“I usually get called in for a romantic lead or a girl-next-door lead, but Margo isn’t anything like that,” Kunkler explains. “It was a difficult role to play. Margo’s a very troubled character. She’s very lonely and she’s faced a lot of rejection in her past. It was difficult to dredge that out of me. But I liked how she’s fierce. She knows what she wants and she goes for it.”
As with previous movies he’s made, Benoit began by raising money on www.Kickstarter.com, a website developed to help people get funding for creative projects. He says each time he’s registered on the site, he’s received more support. This time donors, including friends and family members, gave him $4,000. The money was used primarily to rent video equipment, Benoit said, so that he had to rely on people who would be willing to donate their locations for his movie.
“It’s hard when we are not paying for locations,” Benoit says. “I tried to make sure people would know how long shooting might take. I would love to shoot scenes all day, but you can’t do that when you only have four hours in one location. I look forward to having more time and money in the future.”
Mary Kay Sergo, owner of the Homestead Bed and Breakfast at 611 E. Main St. in Plano, not only offered her Victorian mansion as a site for shooting, but housed cast members as well.
“Al did a nice introduction of himself in an email when he asked to shoot here,” Sergo says. “My husband Chet and I went to his website (www.albenoit.virb.com) and looked at the work he had done … We were very impressed with the breadth of his films. We are interested in the arts and in helping young adults in any way we can, so we also extended the invitation to have cast and crew stay here.”
There were about 14 people working on the project; Sergo says 11 of them stayed at the Homestead.
“They shot here one day, but stayed here three,” Sergo says. “They were hard working. They were up at 6 a.m. and didn’t get back until 2 a.m. There’s a lot more work that goes on behind the scenes than people viewing probably realize. It was fun watching how passionate the cast and crew were about film making.”
In addition to the Homestead, Benoit set up locations at the Plano Sears store at 117 S. Center St. through owner Dave Magee, a longtime family friend, and at a Plano school. An empty restaurant building also was used, and there were some street locations.
Benoit’s parents, Kathy and Steve, also housed cast members, provided transportation and food, including pizza, sloppy joes and baked potatoes.
“We had fun with it,” Kathy Benoit says. “It’s neat to talk to the kids and get to spend a little time with them. The kids are so great. They are all so passionate about what they do.”
Benoit’s mother credits a teacher at Waubonsee Community College with inspiring her son to follow his dreams.
“Al had always been interested in film,” she says. “He watched movies differently than a lot of us do, but he never really thought of that as a possible career until this one teacher encouraged him.
“I just love seeing him with such a passion like he has now. And we are just so happy for all the people who do support him in his projects. Even though Plano has gotten larger, it still has that small town way of supporting each other, and I think that’s great.”
Now that the shooting is done, Benoit says the film is being edited by Cady Perez, another Columbia student, from Long Beach, Calif. Benoit says he also has people composing music for the film.
Once completed, he hopes to enter “Girl’s Blood” in film festivals around the world. He has his eye on about 30 of them. But that takes more money — anywhere from $20 to $100 for the smaller, less-known festivals, and up.
Benoit will soon have a copy of “Girl’s Blood” posted on his website, where he will be able to track who is watching his movie. People who visit the site also have the opportunity to donate to help fund his entrance fees.
“Sundance is one of my biggest goals,” Benoit says. “But just to have them look at the movie costs money. The more financial help we receive, the more we will enter.”
In the meantime, Benoit already is making plans for his next project.