There was a good reason Hollywood filmmaker Dale Peterson chose the Tri-Cities to shoot his latest movie, Hello, My Name is Frank.
"I came up here three years ago for my nephew's graduation, and I was in the middle of writing the screenplay for this film at the same time," Peterson said.
"When I saw the beauty of the topography of this area, especially when the sun sets, I decided to do part of the filming here."
The film crew has been in town for almost five weeks, shooting scenes in Richland and Kennewick. One of Peterson's assistant directors is Teresa Zorich of Richland.
A recent scene for the movie was shot along Kennewick Avenue. A vintage Lincoln Continental riding on the back of a huge black trailer was towed up and down the street. At the front of the trailer were high-tech cameras, as well as sound and lighting equipment.
Kennewick police Sgt. Ken Lattin provided a police escort during the Kennewick Avenue filming, which took several hours as the trailer traveled Kennewick Avenue between downtown and Highway 395 on Thursday and Friday.
"I had no idea how long it took to film one scene," Lattin said before filming started Friday morning.
The movie is as funny as it is poignant, Peterson said. It is about an older man named Frank who suffers from Tourette's syndrome and has spent most of his life in seclusion.
Tourette's is a condition that causes a person to make repeated, quick movements or sounds they can't control.
Hello, My Name is Frank turns into a fiasco when Frank's caretaker dies and her teenage daughter, played by Disney actor Rachel DiPillo, reluctantly takes over his care. DiPillo is perhaps best known for her recurring roles in Nickelodeon's Big Time Rush and the ABC summer series The Gates.
When the teen takes a road trip with two of her friends, she decides to take Frank along, and that's when things get crazy.
Hollywood actor Garrett M. Brown portrays Frank and the role has been the veteran actor's most challenging, he said.
Though many may not know Brown by name, his face is recognizable as a longtime Hollywood character actor. You may remember him in such movies as Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2, Kiss the Bride, Uncle Buck, as well as several guest appearances on the television shows CSI, Sisters and NYPD Blue.
He worked with renowned Los Angeles acting coach Larry Moss for two and half years preparing for the role, he said.
"Learning to behave like someone with Tourette's is tough because it's not like learning how to talk with an accent," Brown said. "It's so much more than that. It's about performing it without looking like you're performing it, and that can be very hard to do."
The director, however, couldn't be happier with his portrayal.
"Garrett has done a kick-ass job," Peterson said. "He was in my last movie so I had him in mind for this role, too. Willem DeFoe was all set to be in the film as well, but he wanted the role of Frank, but the role was meant for Garrett."
Though the movie is considered a comedy, Peterson describes it more as a mix of humor and self-discovery.
"It's sort of a blend of Rain Man, the Wizard of Oz and Little Miss Sunshine all rolled into one," he said.
But don't think for a minute the story mocks the syndrome itself, Brown said.
"Even though this film has funny situations, it doesn't exploit those who have Tourette's syndrome," Brown said. "And that's what makes the story compelling."
Peterson has worked in the film industry for more than two decades. His first venture into filmmaking was as producer 20 years ago for the documentary, Bring Your Best, about homelessness in Los Angeles on Skid Row.
His earlier films have earned nominations from the Los Angeles Film Festival, but Peterson says he feels Hello, My Name Is Frank will go the distance and make its mark with movie fans.
"I truly believe this film will set the world on fire," he said.
The movie is scheduled to be released next year and Peterson said he'd make sure there will be a special showing in the Tri-Cities.
"We have been treated so well by the people here," he said. "The Kennewick police even stored our equipment for us so we wouldn't have to tear it all down each night and put it back together again the next morning."
-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @dorioneal