Filmmakers took over the Vinton Police Department on November 15, turning it into the location for lock-up and office scenes in a faith-based Christian romance by Watchman Pictures.
The offices and hallways were filled with cameras, lights, actors, crew, make-up artists, and caterers. There were calls for “silent on the set,” “action” and “cut,” a few missed lines, and several retakes. Sheilah and Paul Munger are the filmmakers, working concurrently on the second and third episodes of “The Princess Cut” trilogy. “Princess Cut” was their debut film under the Watchman banner and released in 2015. That movie told the story of Grace Anderson, a farm girl in North Carolina who “dreamed all her life of the day when ‘Mr. Right’ would slip a Princess Cut diamond on her finger and swear to love her forever.”
In the script, things don’t go as planned. Romantic dreams come crashing down. Grace is forced to adjust her thinking. It’s a love story told from a Christian worldview which explores the concept that “we all have the desire to love and be loved. Finding a true and lasting love takes time and hard work, but it’s worth waiting for.” Paul Munger said they hope the “Princess Cut” film “left audiences inspired and challenged to pursue a biblical love in all their relationships.” They hope the films open up dialogues in families, especially with teens. Both Mungers grew up in Christian homes and accepted Christ early in their lives. They are both graduates of Bob Jones University and married in 1999. Paul comes from a family of homeschoolers. His father, Greg, co-founded Piedmont Educational Services in the Piedmont Triad area of North Carolina in 1987 to serve private schools and homeschooling families with educational products and services. Paul worked for the company making and distributing materials for homeschoolers. The filmmaking career came about when Paul and his father decided to create a wildlife documentary for the homeschool market, which resulted in the award-winning “Animals in the Bible.” When he wrote and edited the animated animal documentary, Paul realized how much he enjoyed making films.
After that, he and his wife worked on several feature films including “Hero,” “Alone Yet Not Alone,” and “The Screenwriters.” It was then time to launch out on their own with the formation of Watchman Pictures. Filmmaking has been their full-time profession for the past two years. Their vision is to craft excellent films “for the glory of God.” Paul served as writer, producer, and director of “Princess Cut” with Sheilah as co-writer. She is also an actress with several credits, including “Princess Cut,” and a resume of work as props master and production coordinator on various film sets. The couple basically stepped out in faith to write, produce, and distribute “Princess Cut.” They co-wrote Episode Two but hired a screenwriter for Episode Three when their attention was diverted by funding, location, and casting issues. Paul is directing Episode Two; Sheilah, Episode Three. They are coproducing both films. The Mungers include their family of nine children (ages 19 months to 18 years) in their productions. In fact, they are not new to Vinton. They lived here for four months while filming “Alone Yet Not Alone” at Explore Park several years ago. The entire family worked on the set of that movie. Their children are homeschooled with lots of family support living close by in North Carolina, which gives their parents the latitude to pursue their calling.\ Episodes Two and Three of the “Princess Cut” trilogy, now being filmed in the Roanoke area, widen the scope of the Anderson family story to focus on Grace’s siblings and friends. Episode Two involves eldest brother Robert who faces adversity in his marriage and deals with “how a family can grow together when their eyes are on Christ.” Episode Three focuses on son Drew, “learning the nuances of love and how to manage life and family.” The scenes filmed at the Vinton Police Department center on family friend Tessa, who witnessed a domestic violence situation with her statement being taken by Officer Coleman, while the perpetrator is being arrested and held in custody. The officer is intrigued by her and the film includes the story of their unfolding friendship. Main characters for this episode include Kate MacCallum as Tessa, Ben Davies as Mike Coleman, Chandler Macocha as Drew, Mike McClendon as Bruce, and Joseph Durbin as Sgt. Alex. Sheilah describes their crew and cast as “experienced and excellent,” with about 35 crew members and a cast of 40+ who come from all over the country. That cast now includes some of Vinton’s police officers. Chief Tom Foster, Deputy Chief Fabricio Drumond, Detectives Brandon Hill and Todd Bailey, and Officer Dustin Bray all took part in the shooting; whether they will appear in the final released version depends upon editing. According to Sheilah, once filming wraps up, there is still a long process before the film premieres. Filmmaking starts with developing a concept, writing and refining a script, locking in funding, locations, and dates, securing actors, and doing the principal shooting. Then comes post-production with editing, scoring, adding color and special effects, the marketing phase, and distribution.
Filming began for the two new episodes at the end of October; they hope to be finished in mid-December although they will most likely return to the area next year to reshoot some scenes. Location scout Joseph Durbin says he just randomly came across the Vinton Police Department when he was scouting locations a few weeks ahead of filming. General conversations often lead to “someone who knows someone” and that’s how he met Chief Foster. They became friends and that opened the door to filming here. In addition to filming in the police department at the Municipal Building, the Mungers are also filming at a special events venue in Vinton, at a nearby shooting range, at an Alpaca farm near Smith Mountain Lake, in homes, and a convenience store, with some bridge footage from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Sheilah says Chief Foster and the department have been “most cooperative and very helpful” in sharing their space and meeting their needs. As for whether there will be an Episode Four, Sheilah says she and her husband have other stories they would like to tell in film, so this may wrap up the Anderson family chronicles. They await God’s guidance for their next project. “We see His hand all the time, leading us,” she said. Sheilah says that they have come to accept that their filmmaking “is not always about us; our approach to film comes from the Gospel of John— “The Lord must increase; I must decrease.”