THREE OAKS — “It’s a beautiful fall day here in Three Oaks, Michigan.”
So begins the short film “The Autumn Girl.”
An unseen play-by-play announcer continues to report on a Little League game between the Ironmen and the Landsharks while an elderly man in the stands looks on proudly as a player (later revealed to be his grandson) makes an over-the-fence catch to preserve a 1-0 lead for the Sharks.
The setting soon changes to an idyllic time “some 50 years earlier” where children ride bikes to a park, play ball in their street clothes, and visit a crowded soda fountain where the story’s pivotal moment occurs.
“We shot the film back in October 2020, and it was simply a passion project that we wanted to do, as we love making movies,” said writer and director Kyle Misak.
It’s not the first time Misak and his Throwback Pictures crew (including producer and production designer Don Chase, cinematographer Jake Maxwell, and a crew of about 20 people working on the shoot, post-production, original music, sound, visual effects and more) have made movies here. Other films shot in the Three Oaks area by Misak, Chase and their crew include “The House on Oak Street,” “The Acorn” and the yet-to-be-released “The Eden Theory.”
“It’s very much a team effort,” Misak said.
Set against the backdrop of sandlot baseball in the 1960s, “The Autumn Girl” protagonist Jimmy (portrayed by Jack Wielar) faces a group of neighborhood bullies led by the very in-your-face Vick (Gavin Bedall) while trying to win the heart of the girl of his dreams – Beth (Lauren Drexell).
Misak said the idea for the film was inspired by “When you’re a kid and you have a crush on a girl that’s way out of your league.”
Also, Misak said he really liked the movie “The Sandlot” when he was growing up.
Also in the film is George Ellison, who plays Jimmy 50 years later, and Clutch (a local mechanic and mentor to Jimmy played by Jesse Charles).
Misak said the actors (there are 31 credited cast members along with 18 Ironmen and Landsharks players and 28 extras) came from all over the country – West Virginia, Ohio, Georgia, Florida and California.
“We did auditions virtually online,” he said, adding that actors flew or drove in and stayed in the area during the four days of filming
Misak said he loves period pieces because it’s fun creating different looks for an era in areas such as hair and makeup, set designs, clothing, and in the case of “The Autumn Girl,” automobiles.
Misak said Chase got him in touch with members of a local car club (the Michiana Cruisers) and he went to a club event where he lined up having members include some of their classic rides in outdoor scenes.
“It was shot in a way that was complimentary of the era by the lenses that we chose and the locations that we picked,” Misak said.
Those locations included downtown Buchanan and a baseball field near that community’s high school; Doc’s Soda Fountain at the Hesston Steam Museum; the harbor breakwater at New Buffalo’s public beach; Zabel’s Auto & Tire Services in Three Oaks; and rural roadways near the titular village.
“The Autumn Girl” (unrated with PG-13-level language) can be viewed by searching for The Autumn Girl on YouTube.
A behind-the-scenes video that shows how the film was made also can be viewed on YouTube.
Misak said work on another short film is planned for the near future before work on a feature called “Kelp” begins in the summer or early fall.