FREMONT — Christine Conradt watches a monitor as the scene unfolds in front of her.
The camera pans across a living room filled with colorful, crumpled wrapping paper and a Christmas tree to a man and woman sitting on a couch.
Suddenly, a little boy runs across the room and hops on the couch, handing the man a gift. The man unwraps the present, a calendar, and the boy points out his birthday.
Conradt, a former Fremont resident, is director and writer of “12 Days of Giving,” which was filmed in different locations in Fremont this month. The family-oriented Christmas movie is about a man who becomes a town’s Secret Santa and befriends a boy whose father had died.
Filming, which began Feb. 2, concluded on Friday. Cast members included about 20 main actors and an estimated 120 background actors. There were between 35 and 40 crew members, said Kevin McMahon, location manager and a former Fremont resident.
California-based Expression Entertainment is producing the movie and plans are to have the film out around Christmas.
Where the movie will appear hasn’t been determined.
“It could be in the movie theaters,” said producer Boris Isaac. “It could be on TV. We don’t know yet. One of the things that we do with the film is literally sell it. You go to the distributors.”
In the meantime, there was work to do Thursday evening, as the crew filmed at a house on Maxwell Avenue.
Ashley Jones, who plays Pamela Collins in the movie, was excited after filming the Christmas scene in the living room with actors David Blue as Baxter Billings and Jax Connolly as Westin.
Standing in the kitchen, Jones spoke about what she’s enjoyed about the movie.
“I think it started with the script. I loved the script,” Jones said. “I’ve always wanted to do a Christmas movie my whole life. I think a lot of people want to do something their whole family can watch together.
“This movie has such a particular spirit that I think our world needs right now,” Jones added. “I like the pay-it-forward theme.”
Conradt’s idea for the script came from something that happened about eight years ago, when an anonymous donor paid off layaway items. The goodwill gesture spread to about five states.
“That’s where I got the inspiration of creating a character who would do something like that,” Conradt said.
Conradt, who lived in Fremont for a year, grew up in Lincoln, then moved to California to attend college. She’s been excited to return to Fremont.
“People have been wonderful,” Conradt said. “Everything you would expect people of Fremont and Nebraska to be, they have been.”
McMahon said Conradt and the film’s producers came to scout out the area in December.
“They liked the look,” McMahon said. “It’s a cute, picturesque, little town and every location they had in the script, they could see it here.”
Producer Chris Goodman spoke favorably of the community.
“There’s a cool energy in this town,” he said.
The independent movie was filmed in various locations, including Fremont Mall, Fremont Family YMCA lodge and lake, the Corner Bar, the Seventh Day Adventist Church and at private residences.
Isaac enjoyed filming on location.
“You get to come to a brand, new state, learn about their culture,” the producer said. “You get to film on locations that you’ve never seen before. One of my favorites was at the Platte River. That was super fun. There’s so much history behind it.”
McMahon enjoyed filming at Fremont Mall.
“We had a lot of space and the mall was very, very good to us,” he said.
Former Nebraska first lady Sally Ganem was among the background actors at the mall. She was instructed to take a change of clothes for a two-day sequence.
“The best part is meeting all the other extras, and I got a chance to meet one of the stars. That was fun,” Ganem said, adding, “I think it’s so cool that Fremont is working to bring the film industry here.”
Saying farewell can be a sad thing for a cast and crew when filming on location wraps up.
“We spend so many hours on the set every day, it’s almost like we adopt a new family and then you say goodbye to your new family,” McMahon said.
Yet people who get to be part of a movie are fulfilling a dream and feel a sense of accomplishment.
“Getting to actually do what you’ve dreamed of is a wonderful thing,” McMahon said. “And it’s even more wonderful when you get to do it in your hometown.”
- TAMMY REAL-McKEIGHAN Fremont Tribune