Plant City is ready for its close-up
PLANT CITY - "Chu and Blossom" is an upcoming film about a Korean exchange student who arrives in a small Southern town, where he stands out due to his ethnicity and 6-foot-8-inch frame. When the production arrived in Plant City on Sept. 2, all of the trucks and assorted film equipment looked almost as out of place as the film's protagonist. "I was on my way back from lunch after going to church and saw them filming," said Jerry Lofstrom, owner of the Whistle Stop Café. "It's amazing to me everything that goes into it waiting hours for the sun to be just right to film for about 20 seconds." Lofstrom said the production first contacted him in late August asking for permission to use the 1960s-era phone booth in the Whistle Stop's sidewalk café."Along with the mural, that phone booth is one of the most photographed things in downtown Plant City," said Lofstrom, who acquired the phone booth about nine years ago. In addition to the café, the "Chu and Blossom" crew filmed scenes along Plant City's Main Street. Local residents should keep their eyes peeled for Bruton Memorial Library and the 1914 Plant City High School Community Building. They might also see some familiar faces. "I know they (the producers) contacted the Plant City Entertainment group about using some people here as extras," said Michael Karr, assistant to the city manager. "They couldn't have been nicer to work with." This isn't the first time Tinseltown has come calling. NFL Hall of Famer Jim Kelly filmed scenes in Lofstrom's café for a 2010 film, "The Adventure Scouts." Other productions that have passed through include 2007's "Grace is Gone," starring John Cusack and 1991's "My Girl" featuring Macaulay Culkin. Plant City was a good fit for "Chu and Blossom." "It has that small-town feel anyone can relate to, and it just fit our script really well," said Caroline Connor, a producer on the film. "This just looks and feels like the small town everyone knew growing up." Filming on the independent production began Aug. 14 and wrapped Sept. 4. In addition to filming in Plant City for two days, "Chu and Blossom" shot scenes in Lakeland, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Safety Harbor and Ocala. The film is co-directed by Gavin Kelly and Charles Chu, who also stars as Joon Chu. Chu also co-wrote the screenplay with Ryan O'Nan, who plays the performance artist Chu befriends in America. The rest of the accomplished cast features Emmy nominee and Tony winner Alan Cumming ("The Good Wife"), Oscar winner Mercedes Ruehl ("The Fisher King"), Emmy nominee Annie Potts ("Designing Women"), Melanie Lynskey ("Two and a Half Men") and Richard Kind ("Spin City"). The movie is scheduled to be released next year. Marion Smith, president of the Greater Plant City Chamber of Commerce, believes the city appeals to contemporary filmmakers looking to capture the past. "We've definitely got that type of rural and quaint community, but it's also a mixture of old and new," Smith said. "We've got historic homes, but we also have our south side of town, which is more modern."
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