Local Manteno girl joins cast of new feature film
Summer Olshefski got her acting start with the Kankakee Valley Theatre Association when she was just 6 years old, participating in “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”
She’s been in numerous community and professional theater shows, including “Les Miserables,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “Annie.” But an experience this summer was all new to Olshefski, now 12.
Olshefski, of Manteno, spent her summer doing something a lot of other kids might only dream of — shooting scenes for her first feature film.
“Below” directed by Robin Christian, of Monticello, is Christian’s eighth feature film. The film follows eight teens who are trapped on a swim platform, surrounded by a very hungry bull shark. Bull sharks have adapted and have been found in rivers as far north as Iowa, and they have even been known to travel up the Mississippi River, as far as Alton.
When the shark gets stuck in a reservoir, the teens struggle to survive the day.
“There’s a bit of a love triangle, as the male lead has a crush on the female lead who already has a boyfriend,” Christian said.
On Wednesday, Summer wrapped up her portion of filming but still had the chance to hang out at Haigh Quarry in Kankakee (accompanied by her parents, Rich and Catherine Olshefski), as the rest of the cast and crew filmed some underwater portions for the movie.
“For the pickup shots that we needed, the water [at Haigh Quarry] was just a lot clearer,” Christian said.
The day before, the cast and crew shot at Lake Michigan. A good portion of the movie’s filming took place at Kickapoo State Recreation Area in Vermilion County, located outside of Danville.
A normal day of shooting for Summer always starts the night beforehand.
“We usually get a call or email the night before telling us the next day’s schedule, then we carpool in the morning, go to wardrobe and makeup, then we’ll get our scenes,” Olshefski said.
After receiving her scenes (that she’s had a week’s time to rehearse) with any revisions, she’ll sit and read with Robin and the other cast members, which include actors and actresses from Los Angeles to Israel.
“My character’s name is Ellie, and she’s also 12 years old,” Olshefski said.
Ellie is the younger sister of the main female character, Annabelle.
“Ellie’s selfish, and she only wants to bother her older sister, which, I do that, too,” Olshefski jokes. “But once she sees certain things, she grows up and starts caring about other people.”
Even though Summer was the youngest person on set, she was just like everyone else.
“No one treated me like a kid. They were all really nice and treated me like a fellow actor,” Olshefski said.
Christian said they had a limited number of hours to work with Summer because she’s a minor.
“But she has a background in acting; she knew all of her lines, and she was a pleasure to work with,” Christian said.
The entire movie has been shot outdoors. There’s been no use of a sound stage, which, at one point, called for some improvisation.
“Because you can’t predict the weather, we had to add a scene in the rain that wasn’t there originally,” Olshefski said.
The most difficult part of filming for Summer might have been the fact she had to downplay her swimming abilities.
“I had to act like I couldn’t swim, and we had to re-do takes so I could swim worse,” she said. “At least they knew I wouldn’t drown.”
Filming for “Below” started in mid-July of this year.
“We have months of editing ahead of us,” said Christian, who’s hoping for a 2019 release with Dreamscape Cinema.