Film with a local look being released, but not in county

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LISBON — A movie filmed mostly in Columbiana County is scheduled for release in theaters on Friday, but apparently not locally, at least for now.

“Them That Follow” is about a modern-day Pentecostal church set in Appalachia where members handle poisonous snakes to prove themselves before God. The story focuses on the pastor’s daughter, whose relationship with her non-believer boyfriend puts her in conflict with her father and the church community.

According to www.showtimes.com, the movie is opening in theaters in six states, but Ohio is not among them. The film is expected to be released nationwide after that.

“I haven’t seen an area theater where it’s scheduled to be released,” said Roger Petan of Salem, who was a background actor in the film. “I was looking around for it because it was a lot of fun.”

Petan, 62, said he served as a church member during scenes filmed at the Beaver Creek Presbyterian Church Camp in St. Clair Township in November 2017. “What was supposed to be two days turned into two weeks,” he said.

Petan said he can be seen dancing during the part of the film where the pastor’s daughter gets engaged. “I didn’t handle any of the snakes,” he added, with a laugh.

While the snake handling is prominently featured in the trailer, Petan said the movie is about more than that.

“The snakes are just a small part of it. They make it sound like a horror film but it’s more about people and their religion” and beliefs, he said.

Petan said the movie was filmed at other locations in the county, including at a farm south of Lisbon. It is his understanding that most of the movie was filmed in the county except for some scenes at Mill Creek Park in Mahoning County.

The film was shown in January at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in Utah, where it received mixed reviews. Petan saw it at the Cleveland Film Festival in March. The movie stars Walton Goggins as the pastor and Olivia Colman, who won the best actress Oscar this year for her role in “The Favourite.”

Fred D’Amico of the Youngstown Film Commission, which helped convince the producers to film here, said whenever the movie reaches local theaters he would like to hold a premiere at the DeYor Performing Arts Center in downtown Youngstown, the site of the of the former Warner Theater.

He said the people behind “Them That Follow” were drawn to the county for this particular movie because they liked “the look and feel of this place,” and others film companies may follow as a result.

D’Amico estimated the movie’s budget was $2.5 million, and some of the local restaurants and other businesses undoubtedly benefited. “The key thing is we were able to bring a movie to the area,” he said.

Another movie, “Roadkill McGillicutty,” was supposed to be filmed in Lisbon last fall, with arrangements made to film scenes at Lewton’s Garage and the Steel Trolley Diner but nothing ever happened. Petan said there was an online local casting call for background actors but he never heard back.

“That was a disappointment. This is a good area to film in,” he said.

Originally from Cleveland, Petan started working as a background actor after taking a part as an extra in a movie filmed in the Seattle area, where he was living at the time. One job led to another, and he eventually signed up with an agency to see if he could make it a career.

“I did auditions but nothing ever came of it, but I could always get work as an extra,” he said.

Petan moved back to Ohio and settled in Salem, where his wife — the former Maureen Fitch — has family. He works for Hallmark setting up new stores and remodeling existing stores while continuing to pursue his hobby in the Cleveland and Pittsburgh film markets.

“I’ve always managed to work films around my job,” he said.

Contrary to popular perception, there is very little about filming that is glamorous, which Petan said consists of sitting around all day on set waiting to perform for 15 minutes. “Everybody wants to be a star. I do it for the free lunch and haircut,” he joked.

Petan officially has made 52 appearances, from commercials and TV series to cable and feature films. He said the actual number is 63 if you count different roles he played in the same TV series. His goal is to reach 100, and he recently completed appearing in three movies being filmed in Pittsburgh.

Some of the movies Petan has appeared in include “Sleepless in Seattle,” “Men of Honor,” “Assassins,” and the popular Disney channel film “Halloweentown,” where he appears as the abominable snowman ice cream shop proprietor.

When he was younger, Petan said he was often picked to play a businessman or “FBI type.” Before he is through Petan would like to get a speaking part, something that has so far eluded him. “I’ve been close a couple of times.”

tgiambroni@mojonews.com