‘Getting Grace’ A Blessing For Becahi And Lehigh Valley

July 11, 2016 at 2:56 PM
By TAMI QUIGLEY Staff writer

It was “lights, camera, action” July 1 at Bethlehem Catholic High School (Becahi). Well, maybe not quite, but the excitement of Tinseltown definitely touched the Christmas City.

Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez and director Daniel Roebuck – a Becahi alumnus, class of 1981 – held a press conference to celebrate the local actors that will be cast in Roebuck’s upcoming feature film, “Getting Grace.”

Madelyn (Madey) Dundon, 18, a 2016 Becahi graduate, will be cast as the movie’s lead. Approximately 10 Becahi alumni will be involved in one way or another in the film.

“If you asked me if it were harder going to the moon or making an independent movie, put me in that space capsule,” Roebuck said with a laugh, though it’s clear this venture is a labor of love for him.

“The support for this movie has been overwhelming. This movie will be a love letter to the Lehigh Valley.”

The film is a heartfelt buddy comedy in which a teenage girl, Grace, dying of cancer enters a funeral home to find out what will happen after she dies and but ends up teaching the funeral director how to live. Although set in the world of death, “Getting Grace” is an uplifting story. It’s about living life to the fullest and making every day count.

Roebuck has gathered a professional cast for the production. Roebuck, who as starred in hundreds of movies and television programs himself, will act in it, as well as direct, just as Clint Eastwood, Jerry Lewis and Sean Penn have before him. Joining him are Marsha Dietlein, “Little Children”; Duane Whitaker, “Pulp Fiction”; Lonette McKee, “The Cotton Club”; and a host of other familiar faces.

Roebuck has performed on the Becahi stage many times and so, with the assistance of Becahi Principal John Petruzzelli, it was decided that it would be the perfect place to make the announcement regarding the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the cast of young and older actors to be discovered in their home area of the Lehigh Valley.

“Friday was such an exciting day for the Becahi community. It was exciting to welcome back Daniel Roebuck ’81, but to find out recent June graduate Madey Dundon had been cast as the lead in ‘Saving Grace’ was unbelievable,” said Petruzzelli.

“We are proud of both Danny and Madey, not only for this film, but for the people they are, their love for Becahi and their commitment to Catholic education. We are so proud of the 10 Becahi alumni who are working in some way on this film.”

The one role Roebuck did not need to find in the Lehigh Valley was that of his character, Bill Jankowski’s younger self. The character appears in a flashback and will be portrayed by Roebuck’s own 18-year-old son, Buster Roebuck.

However, Roebuck is most excited that he has come back to his hometown to cast a number of key roles, including the title character, Grace, who is based on his own daughter.

“I met her and she was as much of a loon as my daughter,” Roebuck said of Freddy Award-winner Dundon, who recently won the Vic Kumma Award for outstanding vocal performance for “One Hundred Easy Ways to Lose a Man” from “Wonderful Town.”

Roebuck said he directed Dundon’s dad in a CYO production when he was 13. “How could you throw a dart and hit this moment?”

“I’m insanely honored and humbled to be given this part. I’m grateful and excited,” said Dundon. “As soon as I heard about the movie I asked my dad to talk to Dan and at least put in a kind word.”

Dundon is so excited she’s not even fazed at shaving her long brown hair for the role. “It doesn’t seem that important.” She will donate her hair to a worthy cancer cause.

Another diocesan student in the film is Alexa McFillin, 12, of St. Thomas More School, Allentown who will portray another child with cancer.

The cast also includes Jacob Williams, a junior at Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Performing Arts, Bethlehem; Colin Moore, 9, a student at Moravian Academy, Bethlehem; Wyatt Root II, a student at Lincoln Elementary School, Emmaus; and Preston Jude Edwards, 4, of the Swain School, Allentown.

Adult local actors cast include Diane Wagner, Heather Reese, Felicia White and Amy Mittman.

Ana Raiola, a graduate of the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Performing Arts, is creating a painting significant to the plot, which Raiola said “will show the ambiguousness of life.”

Roebuck said the movie will begin shooting Tuesday, July 12 and wrap up approximately Friday, Aug. 12. The shoots – lasting 12 to 14 hours a day – will feature Lehigh Valley locales, including Herron Funeral Home, St. Luke’s Hospital and Monocacy Park, Bethlehem; and Bushkill Park, Easton.

“People can come see us and have a chance to say hi throughout the process,” Roebuck said.

“This is a big little movie. I hope it’s the first of many movies I can bring to the Lehigh Valley.”

Roebuck said his character, who owns the funeral home, “has no friends or faith in anything. Then this child teaches him life must be lived every day. She’s a child who’s going to die and shows him the beautiful life God gives us must be lived every day.

“This movie certainly is an affirmation of my belief that life must be lived every day.”

“Getting Grace” was written by Jeff Lewis and Roebuck. Roebuck is making it with his fellow producers Mark Rupp, Davie Cabral, Brian Glassford and Roebuck’s wife Tammy Roebuck. He is being assisted by local producers who have been working with him for over a year to help bring the production to the Lehigh Valley.

“Seven producers are Becahi alumni. This is what Catholic school education does,” Roebuck said.

Roebuck was quick to thank the film’s corporate sponsors, including St Luke’s Hospital; Trans-Bridge, Inc.; The View Inn and Suites, Bethlehem; Pastor Jennifer Bramble of Trinity and Salem Lutheran Churches, Bethlehem; Herron Family Funeral Homes; PBS; Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Performing Arts; Discover Lehigh Valley; and Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation.

“If you want to be an extra, go to our website. And even if you can’t donate money, please give us your prayers,” Roebuck said.

Because Roebuck and company are creating their film independently, they are still actively seeking any local help the community can give, including meals, the loaning of automobiles, manpower, and extras for the cast. Information on how to volunteer is atwww.gettinggracethemovie.com or through “Getting Grace the Movie” on Facebook.

Should film fans wish to participate on a different level, they can contribute financially atwww.Indiegogo.com, search “Getting Grace.” Perks for donations will include producer credit, cast meet and greets, special featured extra roles, tickets to the premiere event and even a “Getting Grace” NASCAR experience.