June 25--SOUTH BEND -- As real passengers passed through the arrival gate at South Bend Regional Airport, the fictional characters of director John Hancock's latest film also made their entrance Monday morning.
Hancock, known for "Bang the Drum Slowly" and "Prancer," among other films, brought the cameras back to Michiana again to begin filming "Swan Song" on Friday in LaPorte County.
Hancock filmed at South Bend Regional Airport on Monday, opening the set up to the media to visit.
"John loves shooting here," said Andrew Tallackson, co-producer and publicist for the film. "The landscape is absolutely beautiful, and people will go out of their way to work with you."
The movie was written by Hancock's wife, actress and screenwriter Dorothy Tristan. Tristan stars as Karen, a former actress who may have early signs of Alzheimer's, and the story follows Karen's relationship with her granddaughter Julie, played by 13-year-old Grace Tarnow, of LaPorte.
Tallackson said local involvement is crucial for the film, which sports an entirely local cast and much assistance from the community.
"People are donating cars, restaurants are donating food for the set," Tallackson said. "And they do it because they believe in it."
South Bend native Anthony Panzica stars as Arthur in the movie. He said that Monday was his first day on set.
"I'm so excited that they've reached out (to the local community)," Panzica said. "It's a local effort, but that doesn't take anything away from the production values of it."
Panzica, a 1996 Adams High School graduate, said he fell in love with acting while seeing a play at South Bend Civic Theatre's old Firehouse venue. He has been working locally as an actor for the last seven to eight years, and has worked with a few cast members before.
"I told John when he cast me, that I was so pleased that he was mining the area for local talent," he said.
Panzica said the story is something he's proud to help portray, and that, above all, he wants the story to come through to the audience.
"I want them (Hancock and Tristan) to be able to tell the story they set out to do," Panzica said. "You never can tell the outcome of things ... I want them to be able to tell this beautiful story, and I want them to be proud of this work."
Tarnow said she has learned a lot about how movies work behind the scenes while being on set. She won her role after friends and family encouraged her to try out.
"It's been like a dream," Tarnow said. "I wouldn't have imagined that everyone would be so nice."
Tarnow's character Julie goes through an emotional shift in the film.
"You see a major change in my character's attitude," she explained. "Not just in her relationship with her grandma, but in her whole perspective on life."
The film ends with scenes from a production of "Alice in Wonderland," Tallackson said. Tarnow will be singing a song for the play, which will be filmed at Indiana University South Bend in July.
"I sing on stage a lot more than I act," Tarnow said. "The nerves go away when I hit the stage."
Both Panzica and Tarnow had nothing but great things to say about working with Hancock.
"He's like a grandpa to me," Tarnow said. "He takes care of me and always makes sure I'm good on set."
Panzica noted Hancock's presence -- and how it spreads through the cast and crew. Clad in suspenders, jeans and a button-down shirt, Hancock could be seen perched on a director's chair or working with actors at Monday's shoot, deeply involved in production.
"John's at home on set," Panzica explained. "He feels comfortable, and he's surrounded himself with old friends. As an actor, you can relax."
Filming will take place in LaPorte, Michigan City and South Bend through July and into August, according Tallackson.
Hancock's local production company FilmAcres is producing the film. Offices for the company are set in Rolling Prairie, according to its website. The budget for the film is about $300,000, Tallackson said.
Staff writer Amanda Gray:
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