News Column

Willoughby filmmakers produce inspiring movie on Chardon family

June 7, 2013

YellowBrix

June 07--The story of a Chardon family who accomplished great feats despite tough odds is being told in cinematic style by a pair of Willoughby film makers.

"The Vetters: All We Needed" will soon make its world debut at Geauga Lyric Theater on Chardon Square.

Anne Bruder and Nancy Pokorny, creators of a video production and independent documentary film-making company in 2006 named Wagon Wheel Films, produced and directed the movie.

"I was always interested in video and film production and worked in communications and marketing," Bruder said. "I was looking to change jobs. Now with digital, you can kind of get started inexpensively."

The business, which often works with nonprofit organizations such as Hospice of the Western Reserve, previously produced a documentary about the history of downtown Willoughby titled "Willoughby's Legend & Legacy."

Bruder said the film based on the Vetters originated when she learned of Pokorny's friendship with the family's six siblings, all of whom attended Chardon High School.

"I started to film the interviews in 2007 and 2008, the same time I was trying to get the business going," Bruder said.

Six years in the making, the women gathered vintage 8 mm footage, family photos and archival news articles for the approximately 67-minute film.

The subjects of the story, John and Marie Vetter, were married in 1954 and had six children within an eight-year period. They lived in a tiny cottage in Munson Township.

The unexpected passing of Marie at age 42 left John with the daunting task of raising his young brood alone.

"In 1969, a single father with six kids ... social services wanted them to split up but they were able to prevent it," Bruder said.

Their strength of spirit also helped them weather other adversities, including financial struggles and lack of extended family for support.

"Our dad was all we had," Juanita Vetter says in the film.

A song, "My Father's Eyes Were Watching," co-written by Pokorny and Tom Evanchuck and used in the film, pays tribute to the family's inspirational patriarch.

The Vetter children eventually went on to become highly touted athletes. Through a combination of cross country, track and field, and wrestling, they won innumerable awards.

Together, they're credited with 16 state championships, 35 All-American awards, 25 national championships, 10 American records and world record holder status. Two siblings also qualified for the Olympic trials in 1980, the year the U.S. boycotted the games in Moscow.

The athletes' father devotedly drove his children more than an hour to track practice every day and across the country for competitions. He also coached his sons' baseball teams in the community league he co-founded in Munson Township, as well as building and maintaining the fields.

Bruder, who termed the film "a labor of love," said, "This is a special family. They have a unique bond the way they really connect with one another and the way they looked out for one another. They have an aura, just an energy. They're just exciting and inspiring. They seem ordinary on the surface, but are quite extraordinary in what they've done. It's really about overcoming adversity."

Much of Chardon is featured in the work, including vintage footage of Chardon High School.

"The high school has been really great," Bruder said. "The athletic director, Doug Snyder, was really helpful in letting us get footage."

Chris Cipriani, Geauga Lyric Theater executive director, said "We are very excited to be hosting this film premiere about an inspiring Chardon family. It's truly a special opportunity. I believe everyone that views this moving documentary will take away a positive, uplifting message."

When Bruder was asked what she would like people to gain from viewing the film, she replied, "I would just hope that people feel inspired ... and maybe have a renewed sense of the real priorities in life through the ups and downs. Success often comes not just from talent and hard work, but the support of people who have your best interests at heart."

Also, Bruder said she hopes the film will help with some of the healing of "the great community" which dealt with a Chardon High shooting in 2012.

Currently, four of the Vetter siblings live in Geauga and Ashtabula counties. Two live in Arizona.

Bruder credits marquee sponsors Kellogg Insurance Agency and the Junction Auto Family for their assistance with the film.

After the premiere, Bruder and Pokorny will spend a year promoting it, attempting to secure other screenings and entering it in film festivals. It also will be available for purchase on DVD.

The film will be shown at 7 p.m. June 14 and 15 and 3 p.m. June 16. Cost of a ticket is $17 for adults; $14 for students and seniors; and $10 for children.

Tickets can be purchased in advance at www.GeaugaTheater.org, or by calling 440-286-2255.

Fifty percent of box office proceeds will benefit the Geauga Lyric Theater Guild.

For details on the movie, visit TheVettersMovie.com.

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(c)2013 The News-Herald (Willoughby, Ohio)

Visit The News-Herald (Willoughby, Ohio) at www.news-herald.com

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