Dec. 01--Sunday night's premiere of the locally filmed Hallmark Hall of Fame movie "Christmas in Conway" will be a special one for Erin Thompson and her family, whose Forest Hills-neighborhood home played a pivotal role in the film's production.
For almost six weeks in late summer, film crews packed the Thompsons' property with cameras, tents, lighting equipment and, most importantly, a fully functional 45-foot Ferris wheel that is central to the film's plot.
"We were thrilled to have them come and ask to use our house. We are big supporters of the local film industry, so we definitely said yes," Thompson said. "It was a great experience to have them here and have the Ferris wheel here, especially my two boys. All of their friends would come by to see the Ferris wheel and ask them about it at school."
"Christmas in Conway" follows one husband's attempt to build a Ferris wheel in his backyard to recreate the night he proposed to his wife, who's dying of cancer. Thompson said that crews filmed the movie's Ferris wheel sequences in reverse, first with it completely constructed then slowly disassembling the attraction to capture the building process on camera.
While production did not impede the family's day-to-day routine, Thompson did say that on two occasions her family decided to stay at a local hotel because filming continued late into the night. The production also instituted around-the-clock security for the house to make sure spectators didn't sneak into the backyard to take any late-night rides.
With filming taking place so close to home, interacting with the film's cast that included Mary-Louise Parker, Andy Garcia and Mandy Moore was a common occurrence for the Thompsons.
"Because it was so hot outside and the cast was wearing winter clothes, they would come in to cool off," Thompson said. "We were carrying on like normal with our day and the actors would be just hanging out in the kitchen. The kids are too young to know who they were, but for us, having them in the house was exciting."
Thompson's property is just one of the locations Michael Kuhn, a location scout for the production, found in the Forest Hills neighborhood for filming.
"It was like a scavenger hunt. The production expressed interest in a type of residential area with big southern homes," Kuhn said. "Forest Hills lends itself well to other areas in the country as well, because it has hills, big oak trees and spacious homes that have an older look to them."
Kuhn said that he spotted Thompson's home after nearly three months of scouting, and remembered it because it had a "sneakily big backyard," which was essential for the Ferris wheel set. For the film's premiere, the Thompsons initially planned on hosting a viewing party, but with the late evening airtime, Thompson said they will likely just watch it as a family.
Hunter Ingram: 343-2327
On Twitter: @WilmonFilm
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