ESCANABA - An Escanaba man's movie inspired by a Jack London short story is set to make its world premiere at the Island Resort & Casino later this month.
Bob Gregg, of Escanaba, wrote the screenplay for the film "Love of Life," and also serves as the film's producer. He worked with many professionals from the film industry on the project, including some with close ties to Escanaba, such as the film's lead actor and assistant director.
Gregg said "Love of Life" is based on the 14-page short story of the same name by Jack London, which he wrote in 1905.
Escanaba’s Bob Gregg will hold a public showing of his film “Love of Life,” a movie he wrote and produced, at the Island Resort & Casino on May 19. Above, crew members set up the dolly and camera to shoot a scene while on site in Alaska. From left are Gregg, Director Kevin Swigert, of Sun Valley, Idaho, Photography Director Jeffrey D. Smith, of Los Angeles, and First Cameraman Tom Pillifant, of Anchorage, Alaska.
Originally there was skepticism on how such a short story could translate into a full-length film, but it was accomplished; the final version of the film runs 1 hour and 55 minutes.
"It's about a gold miner who was abandoned by his partner and left to fend for himself," Gregg explained, of the movie's plot. "He struggles against himself and the wilderness to get back to the woman he loves, so it's mainly a survival story."
He recalls reading the short story when he was 16 years old and it stuck with him ever since.
One thing that attracted him to the story is how right away in the first scene it becomes clear who the good and bad guys are when Jack is injured, and then abandoned by his partner, giving the audience someone to root for.
"You have sympathy for this character, and the fact that he loves someone and he has to get back to her," he said.
Peter Ammel, of Madison, Wis. (formerly of Escanaba) plays Jack, the abandoned miner trying to return to his lover Amanda, played by Phebe Horschol, of Delta Junction, Alaska - where the movie was filmed.
The tagline for the film is "Where there's life, there's hope," but another important theme is "The closer to death, the more valuable life is," said Gregg.
"Love of Life" was shot over a four-week period in the Delta Junction area and Fort Greely military base from mid-September to early October.
"We had a pretty exceptional working relationship going with our crew," recalls Gregg, who added that working with these professionals was a great experience. He also expressed his thanks to those from the military base and Delta Junction who helped or assisted in the film, as he said they could never have done the movie without them.
Gregg was especially impressed by Ammel's performance, whom he had never seen act prior to the film.
Though this is Gregg's first film, he said he has written others that have come close to being produced. He's now preparing for a second movie taking place in 1899 about gold prospectors during the gold rush. He said this movie will be different from "Love of Life" as there will be more dialogue and six key roles.
"Love of Life" will make its world premiere at a VIP event on May 18 at the Island Resort & Casino in Harris. More than 500 people have been invited to the event, and a public showing of the movie will follow May 19 in the Island Showroom. Tickets for the May 19 event cost $6 and are available at the Island Ticket Office. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. ET, with the movie beginning at 8 p.m.
The film is also expected to be shown in other parts of the country as well.
"We're going to have a Hollywood premiere, and I'm negotiating that right now," said Gregg. "That'll probably be in August."
They are also planning an Alaskan premiere in Anchorage in July, and one at Fort Greely. They may also have a showing in Fairbanks.
The movie is a Love of Life Pictures production, of Grand Rapids, and is directed by Kevin Swigert, of Sun Valley, Idaho. Jeffrey Smith, of Los Angeles, served as director of photography, with music by Peter Deneff. Escanaba native Roarke Boes, also of Los Angeles, worked as assistant director.
Three people from the Anchorage area played key roles in the film as well, including Tom Pillifant, first cameraman; Tim Boese, sound mixer; and Cail Hubert, key grip. Also working on the film were John and Zoya Schandelmeier, mushers from Paxson, Alaska, who trained the dogs used in the production.
Two other Delta Junction residents besides Horschel also landed roles in the film including Steve DuBois and Lou Ann Fett.
Executive producers for "Love of Life" include: Ken Meshigaud of the Hannahville Indian Community; Jeff & Rosalie Naser, of Powers; and Robert Schellenberg, of Grand Rapids.
For tickets or for more information on the event, call 1-800-ISL-SHOW.