Greenville’s Sue Ellen Pabst fulfills dream of acting; Belding’s Amy McFadden, once a teacher, continues film adventure
As she stood nervously in a small, cramped room, surrounded by strangers who were chanting lines from scripts in their hands, Sue Ellen Pabst had a sudden, overwhelming feeling she was in over her head.
Pabst always wanted to be an actress, ever since she was five years old. She studied acting in college and even moved to Los Angeles in hopes of making it to the silver screen. However, life led her back to Michigan, where she eventually landed a career as a therapist at Transitions Counseling Services in Greenville.
“I told myself when my son is grown and I’m a grandmother, I’d pick up acting again,” Pabst said. “Lo and behold, I became a grandmother, and then I got a text from my friend, Joe Anderson.”
That text led her to audition for the role as “Melinda,” the clairvoyant in a low-budget, horror-comedy film called “America’s Most Haunted,” the first film produced by Fulvew Productions, based in Grand Rapids, which Anderson is one of the film’s producers and stars.
“I just thought it was like a roundtable read-through,” Pabst said of the audition. “It wasn’t until I got there and saw all these people auditioning and all of a sudden I thought, ‘They mean business.’”
Pabst, though, landed the part and, from there, traveled with the cast and crew to Saugatuck for two days of filming on site at Ox-Bow Arts Camp, in a rustic, timeless building, where all the film action took place.
“America’s Most Haunted,” starring James Karen (“Poltergeist” 1982), follows a group of reality television ghost hunters who fake interactions with apparitions to keep show ratings up, however, this time, the group confronts a real and evil ghost and clumsily find a way to thwart the evil spirit from the house.
For Pabst, it was fascinating to see the other side of the movie experience.
“That experience has given me such an appreciation of movies. I can’t watch movies in the same way anymore,” she said. “Before this, I thought movies were all about the actors. But now, I’ve realized they are just small part.
“Seeing how much it took to put up even one scene, it made me realize the directors’ least concern was my lines,” she laughed.
Pabst’s character was introduced in only three scenes throughout the movie, but all of them were with James Karen, who she said was fun to work with.
“James was an amazing, kind, considerate and decent guy,” she said.
McFadden stars as ghost ‘Mary’
When Amy McFadden, a retired second grade teacher from Belding’s Ellis Elementary School, won the role of “Mary,” one of the ghosts in the film, she had to tap into skills of classical theater and dance she learned long ago to act out her apparitional character.
“It was really fun and interesting because I had no lines,” said McFadden, who is friends with Pabst and engaged to Anderson. “I played a ghost on stage before, but this time everything was shot in front of a green screen. It was a bit challenging to stand there by yourself in a concrete room surrounded by a green screen.”
McFadden starred in the 2012 film “Mickey Matson and the Copperhead Conspiracy,” as Mickey’s mother. The movie, which starred Christopher Lloyd (“Back to the Future” 1985), is expected to have a sequel, which McFadden will be in, as well.
In “America’s Most Haunted,” McFadden what she enjoyed the most was the “movie magic” part of creating the ghosts and all the effects that went with it.
“It was great trying to act all by yourself and with no lines, but I also liked helping out where else I could, making food for the crew and helping with special effects,” she said.
Her wardrobe, as well as the other ghost characters’ wardrobes, were put together by another Montcalm County person, Kelly Lucas, a Greenville resident and costume designer for the film.
McFadden recently completed a young adult audio book called “The Sanctum,” by Sarah Fine, through Brillance Audio in Grand Haven, and is now working on another audio book, which is a story about vampires.
“I never read vampire books before,” she admitted, “but it’s been fun because there are tons of accents and I get to play all the characters.”
Seeing the ‘finished’ product
The entire cast and crew got the chance to see the movie in its entirety at a test sceening at Wealthy Theatre in Grand Rapids Oct. 17, and they were not disappointed.
“When I first got into this, I really didn’t know how this movie was going to turn out. I thought it was going to be really rinky dinky,” Pabst said. “Throughout the making of the movie, we were just given snippets of lines and the rest of the time we were hanging out with the comedians and always laughing.
“I remember I came out of it thinking, ‘This better be funny,’” Pabst added. “But after seeing the movie, it’s phenomenal.”
Co-director Chris Randall said he was happy with how the movie turned out and there were many things he loved about it.
“I think the fact that it gets the reactions we were all hoping for is the best part,” he said. “We have that mix of comedy and horror and somehow we seem to have pulled that off.”
McFadden was quite impressed with the final product, as well.
“I loved it. I loved how it was done, especially with the whole budget being between $30,000 and $35,000,” she said. “It was good storytelling and good writing. It can make for a very cool movie.”
The film’s producers, Keith Golinksi and Chris Randall, plan to travel to the American Film Market in Santa Montica, Calif., and then taking the film on a year-long tour on a film festival circuit hoping to land a distributor to sell the movie for download or DVD reproduction.
“Hopefully,” Randall said, “we gain some fans and good word-of-mouth for the movie. Maybe get an award or two. But we definitely want to establish a good festival as our world premiere. So we have no idea when or where that will be yet. Once we figure that out, then we’ll be able to officially announce a Grand Rapids/West Michigan premiere and set up some screenings around the area. Probably early next year or early spring next year.”
If successful, Fulvew Productions can then begin other movie projects, McFadden said.
“They have about three films ‘in the can’ already, that’s the reason why they made this film, to show they have what they call ‘proof of talent,’” McFadden said.
Though neither McFadden nor Pabst are fans of scary movies, both of them said they would love to be involved in another movie like “America’s Most Haunted” if given the opportunity.
“Heck yeah, I’d do this again,” Pabst said estatically. “When I got back I told my husband I don’t want to work anymore, I want to be doing this!”
To watch a clip of “America’s Most Haunted,” go online to vimeo.com/46638456.