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The Roebucks Take Over The Lehigh Valley With The Production Of Feature LUCKY LOUIE

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Lucky Louie recently wrapped in mid-October in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania.

The Roebucks Take Over The Lehigh Valley With The Production Of Feature LUCKY LOUIE


Most Independent Filmmakers have lamented about how hard it is to get a movie made during the year of COVID. Many have thought it impossible.

Daniel Roebuck, however, was not one of them.

Quite the contrary, in fact. He put together a fool-proof plan to his get his new feature Lucky Louie made with the script being written and the movie being filmed over a matter of seven months, while still following COVID guidelines in regards to masks and other safety measures. What was that fool-proof plan, you ask?

Make it a Family Affair.

That may seem unbelievable, but the fact is Lucky Louie recently wrapped in mid-October in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania. But before the dust settles on production, one needs to go back those seven months to see how this miraculous movie came to be.

You see, it was just this past March when Roebuck held a Press Conference in the keystone state to announce his next feature, The Hail Mary. It was then, just a few days later, the current Pandemic saw nationwide shutdowns and forced him to rethink his plan of attack.

Enter Grace Roebuck, Danny's daughter, who grew up watching her father work and majored in production at Cal State Northridge University. The two wrote a pilot together a year ago and had been looking to work on a project together. When Daniel realized that he might not be able to make The Hail Mary in the time-frame he wanted, he immediately pivoted.

"I said I have this idea for a movie," said the elder Roebuck, who had starred in movies such as River's Edge and The Fugitive and television shows such as Matlock and LOST, before making his feature directorial debut, Getting Grace, which was filmed in the same Lehigh Valley - and primarily the town of Bethlehem - four years ago.

"Why don't you write it with me? And, then maybe direct it with me? I think she was excited about it. I hope she was excited."

She was. So much so, that Grace saw this as the culmination of a lifelong dream.

"This is something that I wanted to do since I was a child," Grace beamed, just hours after the production wrapped in October. "And, I thought 'how cool would it be to make it with all your friends and all your family'? And, it wasn't a weird thought, because we knew so many people. Actors and behind the scenes people. This was such a great experience."

And, Grace said working on the script together prepared her for the production to come.

"Writing together was a good first step in that," she said. "We worked on a lot of things (in the past), but this was very live, every single day like a job, back and forth at a table. So, it was a good experience leading into this, because we had disagreements and we had to compromise. And, we had moments of debate of what journey do we choose for this character and for the story.

"So that, was the first step in directing together."

Danny quickly enlisted Tammy Roebuck (his wife and definitely his better half) to help produce the feature. You see, Tammy not only has her own production company, but was a producer on Danny's aforementioned feature directorial debut, Getting Grace. And, Tammy got a kick out of how she was not allowed to hear about the script, let alone read it before they locked it.

"They didn't want me to hear any possible thought or dialogue," laughed Tammy. "None of the surprises.

"I knew they were writing a movie. I knew the gist of it, but I didn't know the cliffhanger. I didn't really know any of the big surprises of the movie. And, that was fun for me."

But, it was about to get even more fun. That's because pretty soon all the Roebucks were getting in on the action.

Danny's son, Buster Roebuck, who acted in a small, supporting role in Getting Grace was brought on to once again play the younger version of his father's character. But, this time, Buster stayed for the majority of the production and also worked as a grip, actually working for the key grip, Tucker Butler, who just so happened to be dating Grace Roebuck, the co-writer/director. (It should be noted that Tucker was an experienced grip with no fewer than four IMDb credits, not to mention other experience.)

But, in building this close-knit team, Daniel found a way to get this movie made, albeit in a very unique way.

"It's something that not everybody gets to do," Buster Roebuck smiled in between gripping scenes on the set. "It's a one of a kind experience. Who gets lucky enough to do that? I feel so blessed just to have the opportunity.

"What other family gets to go make a movie? It's just so cool."

And it didn't stop there. The elder Roebuck enlisted his second family, as well ... what some might call his "Film Family." Producers Beth Clausnitzer, Ann Knerr and Bill Hartin were just three of many locals who have worked with Roebuck in the past. They all were working on the project, assisting Tammy Roebuck.

And Daniel was quick to cast some very familiar faces in Lucky Louie that also happen to be members of his extended "Film Family." One of the first actors cast was Duane Whitaker, Daniel's friend of 37 years. Many remember Whitaker as the horrifying pawn-shop owner, Maynard, in Pulp Fiction. Whitaker, who with some notable exceptions, made a career out of playing heavies. But, you could say, he turned a new leaf to playing likable characters with his performance as Reverend Osburn in Getting Grace. In his latest role, Whitaker plays Payton an ex-con forger with a knack for card tricks, who has changed his ways.

In addition to Duane, Danny also cast the actress who gained fame playing the title character in that very same feature, Madelyn Dundon. Other alumni from Grace also followed such as Marsha Dietlein and Timothy Goodwin.

Pretty soon both hired crew and volunteers were filled with familiar faces. You could say the production of Lucky Louie was catching fire; gaining steam in the town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and all over the Lehigh Valley.

And, to Daniel this wasn't just 'something to do' during the Pandemic. No. Lucky Louie fit perfectly in his slate of films right between Getting Grace and The Hail Mary - that is a faith-based family film that also entertains like any Studio Film.

"My hope is to make faith-filled family entertainment through our not-for-profit," Daniel explained. "The one thing that I noticed about a lot of Christian or Faith films is that they're not always well made. There's no care given, most especially with story and character development. And, I wonder why that is? Because the same smart people are involved.

"But, they just don't try as hard. They rush things. And, I don't know why that is? So, I wanted to do something where I didn't rush anything - other than writing the story - and I wanted it to be overtly entertaining. Not just a faith message, but an entertaining message. Because I don't think they're always entertaining. And, people say 'that movie was great.' and I think but would it have convinced a non-believer to consider believing."

When you hear Daniel talk about his love of God, as well as his love of Filmmaking, you get the feeling as if you're sitting on the set of Elmer Gantry, listening to Burt Lancaster in character, preaching his cause in that charming and loquacious manner. The only difference is, unlike the character portrayed by Lancaster, Roebuck believes everything he tells you. He puts his heart and soul into the making of these films - and Lucky Louie was no different.

And, he firmly believes that the film will entertain you and possibly even give you something deeper to think about. Indeed, the movie about a retired cop who teams up with four ex-cons and a behavioral science student to solve a 50-year-old bank robbery, doesn't immediately sound like your run-of-the-mill faith-based film. But, you see, that's the beauty of it.

"What I love about it, is that it's a really unique story for (what it is)," said producer Tammy Roebuck. "It's not your typical faith-based movie. It's a comedy - it has a little bit of that nice emotion to it, but it's not going to be like Getting Grace where everyone's like needing tissues at the end of the movie."

And, there is of course, that other interesting angle. The fact that it was co-written and co-directed by a father-daughter team. Or that the whole production was filled with The Roebuck Family - both immediate and extended.

And, that family feel was very evident during principle photography. On the final day of filming, Clausnitzer brought out several bottles of Martinelli's Sparkling Cider and filled trays of plastic champagne glasses, as the cast and crew celebrated like it was New Year's Eve. Afterward, at the wrap party, an elated, exhausted and ecstatic Grace Roebuck was still talking about the experience.

"I think I did a good job. Nothing caught on fire during the filming," she laughed.

But, she was way off base there. This whole production caught fire. And, that heated movement will culminate when this group reconvenes one day in the next year to see Lucky Louie on the big screen.

And, you can bet, that too, will be a Family Affair with the extended and Film Families in attendance.


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