TROY, Ill. - Troy, Illinois has gone to the dogs! The filming of Marshall the Miracle Dog is taking place this week at Tri Township Park, a picturesque small town playground in the middle of America. Producers are using extras from the Metro East and from a pool of people who auditioned at Clayton High School.
One of the main reason's most of the filming is taking place in the Metro East is because of Chris Benson, the co-producer and director of photography. Benson grew up in Troy.
"Marshall the movie is a wholesome feel good movie. What better place to represent a wholesome movie than a wholesome feel good home? For me, it feels full circle coming home and giving back to the community that helped raise me," said Benson. "I really fought for bringing it here and having my mom come up to set."
Local extras are being used and hometown actors as well, but the movie features Hollywood stars including Shannon Elizabeth (American Pie, Scary Movie), Matthew Settle (Gossip Girl, Band of Brothers), Lauren Holly (NCIS, Dumb and Dumber), and St. Louis's own, Bill Chott (Wizards of Waverly Place, The Millers, Santa Paws 2.)
Chott said it's great to be home and explained why he took the role in this low-budget independent film.
"All the important messages of the film resonate with me on a personal level. You might have guessed that I might have been bullied when I was in school. I had glasses and was a heavy kid since birth," said Chott.
The movie is based on book written by Cynthia Willenbrock who adopted Marshall after hearing about his heartbreaking story.
NewsChannel 5 has been following Marshall's story for four years when the Humane Society of Missouri rescued him and 60 other animals from an animal hoarder.
Marshall arrived at the St. Louis facility near death. In fact, veterinarian Dr. Steven Schwartz said it was the worst case of neglect he had ever seen. Bite marks left a hole in Marshall's cheek the size of a tennis ball. His front leg was so mangled doctors had to amputate. His injuries were so severe, Marshall's heart stopped three times on the operating table. His will to live is why those at the Humane Society started calling him the miracle dog.
The mayor of Troy, Al Adomite, is rolling out the red carpet for the production.
"It's awesome. It's a once in a lifetime sort of thing for our community," he explained.
Marshall's story is more than a movie, it has become a movement.
Next week at the Character Plus national conference, Missouri educators will learn about the Marshall movement, an anti-bullying curriculum that will be taught in schools next year.
And that is not all. When filming ends later this month, the story may just be beginning. Shannon Elizabeth, who plays Willenbrock, reportedly wants to direct a musical about Marshall on Broadway.
By the way if you are an aspiring actor, Chott is holding an improv workshop this weekend in St. Louis. If you want to take the class contact The Improv Shop. It's Saturday June 14, from 2:10 p.m. until 4:10 p.m., 510 N. Euclid Ave. Their phone number is 314-932-5540.