Making 'Progress'

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Cast and crew film a scene of a movie based loosely on an adaptation of John Bunyan's book "Pilgrim's Progress" in a field owned by Alana and Bill Myers northeast of Bigfork. The movie, directed by Andrew Wiest of Kalispell and produced by his wife, Marianne, has been shot locally over the past four weeks and features local children in most of the leading roles. Jennifer DeMonte/Daily Inter Lake

Local filmmakers turning 17th-century classic into family adventure

The Daily Inter Lake

Andrew Wiest's last film, "Dead Noon," was a zombie Western horror flick, complete with demons, walking skeletons, a posse of the undead and lots of gunplay.

The movie he's been shooting for the past four weeks around the Flathead Valley, with a cast featuring dozens of local children, has taken Wiest, 29, in a very different direction.

The still-untitled production is based on the 17th-century book "Pilgrim's Progress" by John Bunyan, but the adult characters have been transformed into children.

"Andrew loved the book when he was a kid," said Marianne Wiest, Andrew's wife and producer of the film. "This version is very different, but very similar, with a lot of 'Oliver Twist' thrown in, a lot of the prodigal son from the parable in the Bible. The original 'Pilgrim's Progress' is an adult story about an adult who goes through a journey in an analogy to the Christian life, going through adventures and trials and tribulations."

They decided to add a youthful twist because "allegories and fables seem to work better with kids," she said. "They don't come across quite as cheesy or as heavy. This is like a fairy tale, very over the top and outrageous."

The main character, Chris, is a runaway child living with a group of misfits in a junkyard, stealing to survive. The world has become a hostile and unforgiving place, following a Great War that has caused the general decay of civilization.

When Chris (played by 14-year-old Solomon Ray of Whitefish) decides to venture into the frightening wilderness to reconnect with his real family, he meets an assorted cast of quirky characters and battles the challenges of nature to complete his epic quest for home.

The Wiests live in the Flathead Valley and Marianne, 26, is a Bigfork native. Wiest and crew shot their story in locales throughout the area, wrapping up four weeks of filming this weekend. They've been on a ranch near Bigfork, at Christ Church Episcopal in Kalispell, and in Marion, among other places.

The cast has been a large one for a low-budget independent movie, with "probably over 20 people with decent scenes," Marianne Wiest said, with three scenes requiring as many as 50 extras.

Even though the scary-themed "Dead Noon" was picked up recently to be distributed through DVD by Lionsgate, Marianne Wiest said that though he enjoys the horror genre, most of the scripts her husband is developing are family films.

"After making this movie with kids, this is a blast," she said. "Kids are so into it, and it's been very inspiring to us to do this again."

For more information, visit www.pilgrimproductions.blogspot.com or www.deadnoon.com

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