BRISTOL, Va.— People passing by the Old Eastman Antique House might have thought a Hollywood production was being filmed at the rustic estate on Lee Highway Sunday—because it was.
Jeff Frizzell, the location manager of the film, “Believe” set in Grundy, Virginia, said he had been trying to find the sets for the movie since last year.
“Our character is a 40 year-old guy who owns an automotive factory in Southwest Virginia,” he said. “This house just fit his character—the story is written for Grundy—but there were a few things needed for the film that we couldn’t find in Grundy—this house in Bristol is perfect for what we need to portray. It’s not necessary for the house to be in Grundy to capture the feel of being in Grundy.”
The movie, a Christmas story, revolves around two families from different walks of life who come together to save the annual Christmas pageant and each other in the process.
Matthew Pickett, the co-producer of the film, compared the film to two classics.
“It’s like “It’s a Wonderful Life” meets “Scrooge” in Southwest Virginia” he said. “The story is unique and we wanted the right setting—this house fit the bill. We shot the Christmas parade in December but we’re shooting smaller more controlled scenes here—that’s why we were low-key about being in the area today. We’re on a tight schedule for shooting on location inside the home—and having people milling around can cause a huge distraction and throw our time off. When we’re in Grundy it will be different—we’ve already put out a casting call for people in the town who want to be in the film.”
The movie is scheduled to be filmed in Grundy and Bristol off and on through April 4.
“We will be shooting for 12 days in Grundy,” Pickett said. “There are sites there that people from the region are familiar with—we want those sights and sounds of hometown Grundy to be in the film, we want people from Grundy to be in the film.”
Ryan O’Quinn, the lead actor, is a Southwest Virginia native.
“Grundy was my home for the first 18 years and nothing can ever replace the place you grew up,” O’Quinn said in September. “The outpouring of support from the community has been unreal.”
Picket said he was thankful that O’Quinn pushed to have the film shot in his hometown.
“Ryan O’Quinn was born and raised in Grundy,” he said. “He insisted on shooting the film in his hometown and we’re glad he did—there’s nothing like it—we could’ve have shot the movie anywhere, but Grundy is Southwest Virginia.”
He added that at most sites they had to have a lot of security to keep people off the sets.
“It’s just not that way in Bristol,” he said. “No one is malicious—we’re not really worried about our equipment—we have a had a few curious onlookers but no one is pushy—the people are all very hospitable—we’re expecting the same thing in Grundy.”
The current budget for the faith-based film is set at $3.5 million, according to promotional material. The producers also plan to partner with a local nonprofit to give back to the community, the release states.