A new fictional film about Aledo will be shown Saturday, Aug. 19 (in a private, invitation-only screening) at the Center for Living Arts, downtown Rock Island.
Narrated by country star and Aledo native Suzy Bogguss, “Everything Fun You Could Possibly Do in Aledo, Illinois” reunites two childhood friends from Aledo after three decades apart.
Rediscovering their forgotten bucket list from senior year of high school, they embark on a riotous adventure to fulfill the wild dreams of their youth – skinny dipping in the community pool, making out with boys, and even a daring shoplifting spree, according to a synopsis. But there’s one small problem: the town’s sheriff is hot on their trail, determined to catch them in the act.
As they hilariously elude his every move or underestimate his tenacity, their friendship is tested by their mischievous escapades and the looming threat of getting caught.
It’s billed as a “heartfelt comedy where two lifelong friends face off against the hapless sheriff, creating mischief, mayhem and memories that will last a lifetime,” with new music and appearances by Suzy Bogguss, a 66-year-old native of the Mercer County seat (population of about 3,600).
Christina Shaver – the Chicago-based movie producer and co-screenwriter – has fond memories of Aledo, where her father grew up. During her childhood, she would visit her grandmother, uncles, aunts, and cousins there. Now that her close relatives in the area have either passed away or moved away, Shaver missed her visits, she said in production notes on the film.
To commemorate her time in Aledo and as a tribute to her family’s longstanding ties to the town, she wanted to make a movie.
The Aledo movie is her second produced feature film. Shaver’s first feature, called “Cecily and Lydia at the Waypoint,” won best picture, best director, best screenplay, and best actress for the Midwest Film Festival’s awards in 2021. She graduated from Northwestern University with a BA in music (1997), and from the Harold Ramis Film School (2017).
Shaver contacted Gina DeAngelis, a friend and an Emmy-award winning writer, to shape the story. Gina and Christina met online during the pandemic at a Stowe Story Labs writing retreat.
Shaver next contacted Julia Hunter to join as cinematographer. “Christina and Julia worked together on a previous film, and Julia’s flexibility, versatility, and work ethic were key ingredients to making this particular film,” the production notes say.
Shaver and director Bethany Berg attended film school together. Berg is from Sheboygan, Wis., and felt a connection to the Midwest and smaller communities.
Shaver thought it was a long shot that Bogguss would do the movie, given her prominence in country music. Not only did Suzy come aboard, she also wrote three original songs for the film, and put out a Spotify playlist for the movie.
“Honestly, I was shocked and simultaneously thrilled when Suzy called me back!” Shaver said Monday by e-mail. “We had a nice chat, and I discovered that her mother and my grandmother were good friends.
“My grandmother was one of Suzy’s biggest fans,” she said. “Suzy and her husband Doug have been so kind and generous with their limited time and incredible talent with our film. We are so grateful.”
Filmed last year
The movie was filmed in Aledo in June 2022, and the budget was well under $300,000, Shaver said.
“Knowing we didn’t have much money to make the film, we made the creative decision not to use lights,” the film notes say. “Our cinematographer Julia is also an accomplished documentary filmmaker, and so knows how to film ‘on the fly’ working with the available lighting.
“Second, we needed to film in a compressed period of time. The movie took just under two weeks to film. This was aided by the fact that the footprint of downtown Aledo is similar to the size of a major film studio’s lot,” the notes say.
“In fact, the town may even be a little smaller. This made it very manageable for our crew to wrap one location and easily shoot the next location quickly. We were able to get most everywhere on foot once the day started. This also helped us to get more footage quickly.
“Last, we have a very accomplished cast and crew. We were small but mighty. This was a group of people who were dedicated to making things work, chipping in where they were needed, and also enjoying themselves in the process.”
The movie was directed and co-written by Bethany Berg. She also received her training at the Second City Chicago’s Harold Ramis Film School — the world’s first school dedicated to comedic storytelling.
Shaver said that the private screening in Rock Island is for friends of the film so that she can maintain qualification for film festivals.
“Our film festival run will start this fall. We have submitted our films to festivals around the country, and will start to hear back from them soon,” she said Monday. “After about a year or so, the movie will be available on streaming. We are currently working out a contract with a distributor who has offered to pick it up, and when more information on that is available, it will be on our website.”
The website for “the Aledo movie” is HERE (you can sign up for an e-mail newsletter to get updates). Shaver will attend the Saturday afternoon screening.
Julia Hunter, the cinematographer, is a Chicago-based documentary director and cinematographer who has worked on shows for Apple TV+, AMC, VH1, Discovery+, countless independent projects and is currently on staff at Kindling Group. She is a graduate of Knox College, Galesburg.
Shaver is now working with Hunter and one of the Aledo actors on a documentary about Gertrude Abercrombie (1909-1977), a Midwest Surrealist artist who grew up partly in Aledo. She was selling her paintings for less than $50 in Chicago at art fairs when she was alive, and several paintings sold last year for $2.2 million at auction.
Although born in Texas, Abercrombie spent most of her life in Chicago (she lived in Aledo with her family from about 1914 to 1916, where her father was from). She graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a degree in romance languages and studied figure drawing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
In 1936 and 1938, she won prizes at the Art Institute of Chicago’s Annual Exhibition of Works by Artists of Chicago and Vicinity. During the 1940s and 1950s, she was known for holding parties and artistic gatherings at her Hyde Park home, inviting visual artists and prominent jazz musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie.