The star-studded cast and crew of “Christian Mingle” swarmed Downtown Turlock Monday – as did hundreds of Turlockers eager for a peek at Hollywood stars.
The family-friendly romantic comedy, written and directed by Corbin Bernsen of “Psych” and “L.A. Law” fame, has been filming in Turlock since Dec. 4. But much of that filming was out of the public eye.
On Monday, the “Christian Mingle” filming couldn't be missed, as filmmakers shut down West Main Street. Hollywood professionals filled every nook and cranny of the street with complex movie-making machinery, shooting scenes on sidewalks and in storefronts as the film rapidly nears completion.
And, no, those aren't new businesses in Downtown Turlock. Mike's Guitars and the WJC Gospel Church were both set up by filmmakers to make Downtown Turlock feel even more alive.
It didn't take much to make Main Street feel vibrant on Monday, as hundreds of people involved with the production packed the sidewalks.
“This is the day we have a lot of extras,” said Turlock Film Commission Founder Mike Everett as he gazed across a room packed with hopeful extras, some sitting on the floor for lack of seats.
Among the 100-plus extras was Rufus Keaton, sitting in a folding chair in an empty storefront that filmmakers transformed into a hip gospel church.
Keaton said he got the call Monday morning – just hours before filming was set to start – and was offered the cushy role of pastor. He pleaded to get the afternoon off work and headed down to the production office at 2 p.m.
But alas, the producers' first choice for pastor showed up, so Keaton became a face in the crowd.
Despite the downgrade in roles, Keaton is still looking forward to his “15 seconds of fame.”
“I'll have a premiere party,” Keaton said.
It wasn't just extras looking for a slice of the limelight. Hundreds of average Turlockers watched the production throughout the day, standing across the Main Street from camera crews and Hollywood stars.
That was a welcome change of pace for Turlock and the film crew. The previous five days were spent out of the public eye shooting office scenes, which comprise about one-third of the movie.
“It's good to be back downtown,” Everett said. “Plus people can see us too.”
Pedro Emigio said he spent about 45 minutes on the sidewalk, spurred to watch the filming after reading a TurlockCityNews.com article.
“I think we saw the protagonist (played by Lacey Chabert, of 'Mean Girls' and 'Party of Five'). They said it was her,” Emigio said, gesturing to the crowd.
Inside, Chabert was set to film a scene where she steps through a church's doors and finds what is missing in her life. But before that could happen, the crew had to make sure the shot was just right.
At first, Bernsen's vision didn't mesh with what the cinematographer had blocked out.
“I want her walking straight down the aisle,” Bernsen said. “The aisle to heaven.”
That necessitated a rapid, large-scale change to the scene, moving dolly tracks and reconfiguring massive lighting arrays. Making matters more difficult, the crew was fighting fading light – and a rapidly approaching dinner break.
“This is serious time,” Bernsen said as the crew raced the clock.
In the nick of time – and in just three takes – the scene was shot.
Filming was likely to continue until midnight Monday night, Everett said.
Production in Turlock is set to wrap Tuesday, as Chabert must leave to attend a wedding. Additional road closures will be in effect Tuesday, though, as crew will work on filming downtown scenes, many of them outside.
Among those scenes will be a special effect shot with rain and lightning made using Hollywood magic.
But perhaps the most magical part of the production, Everett said, has more to do with small-town charm.
"I'm just amazed how the city has embraced us," Everett said. "No complaints."