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'Totally Scrooged!' a film valentine to Morris

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By Tom Larson

Sun Tribune

Over the years, the Morris PlayRights have tackled stage productions, variety shows, USO shows, holiday musicals, even silent-film shorts with last year's "Sons of the Guns".

Coming soon, to the Morris Theatre near you: The PlayRight's feature film debut, "Totally Scrooged!"

The movie will feature more than 50 local residents playing a variety of roles in a film based on Morris' "Scrooge Night" event.

"Totally Scrooged!" is being filmed at locations throughout Morris, said director Margaret Payne. In fact, the filmmakers will have a car in the "Parade of Lights" on Thursday, and will be shooting scenes of people making scripted comments along the parade route.

There also is an open casting call for the movie's "Tossing of the Tom" scene on Nov. 30, beginning at 5:30 p.m., in the Pocket Garden between Keepers/Hoffman Realty and McGinnis Appliance.

A "Guess the Scrooge" contest begins Saturday, Nov. 14. See the photos of local residents dressed up as Scrooges in the Nov. 14 Sun Tribune and drop off entries at the Sun Tribune offices at 607 Pacific Ave.

The 70-minute film's premiere is Saturday, Dec. 19 at 7 p.m. at the Morris Theatre, following a Red Carpet Wine Tasting at 5:30 p.m. at a Morris location to be announced soon.

"Totally Scrooged!" will be shown a second time on Sunday, Dec. 20, at 5 p.m. as part of a double bill with "Sons of the Guns."

Billed as "A (Mostly) True Story That Could Only Happen in Morris," Payne said the movie is a "valentine to Morris" that is being made in the "mockumentary" style of "Waiting for Guffman," a film by Christopher Guest, who also made the films "Best in Show" and "A Mighty Wind."

"Scrooge Night" is an annual Morris Area Chamber of Commerce event, and the PlayRights creative team got the idea for the movie when they were in costume, caroling during "Scrooge Night" last year, Payne said.

"We thought, what would it be like if 'Scrooge Night' became the No. 1 holiday in town?" Payne said.

Twig Webster and Chuck Grussing are the movie's main characters but it has a cast of dozens. "Sons of the Guns", which was filmed on one Saturday get-together, gave the PlayRights the confidence to try a longer movie, Payne said.

Webster, who has filmmaking experience, is the cinematographer. Scott Banta is the sound engineer, Shaune Wunder handled costumes, Tap Payne is gaffer and sound assistant and Patti Burns is in charge of continuity.

"We'd done 'Sons of the Guns' and Twig had equipment, so we said, 'Let's make a movie' " Payne said. "There are some things you learn along the way and what we learned is why people get a lot of money to do this."

But while the process has been taxing, recruiting co-stars has not, Payne said.

"They're very trusting," she said. "We'd tell people that we're going to make a movie and ask them to be in it and no one said, 'I want to see the script first.' People were very willing to dress up in costumes or do whatever we asked."

Payne said the PlayRights motto is simple: Have fun. In that respect, she said audiences will connect with "Totally Scrooged!"

"If we have fun,' she said, "I think people will have fun, too. The message is to keep Christmas in your heart all year long, and I think that's the message of Scrooge."