ALPENA — The film, “Harsens Island Revenge,” started production on Sunday in the Alpena area. The film is an adaptation of a book of the same title set in the Prohibition-era by Karl Manke and produced by Lansing-based film company Collective Development Incorporated.
Karl Manke stayed on set to cameo in the movie in a later scene, and to watch other scenes play out. This is his second book adapted by Collective Development and he said it’s an interesting experience on set.
“I find it more interesting than probably exciting, but I find it interesting,” Manke said. “I realized that every person that read “Harsens Island Revenge” would read the characters differently than I wrote them. Because everybody sees a different story, a different lens that somebody they know, or some experience they had, or something of this sort touches them differently. So I expect that in the movie, too.”
The story follows World War I veterans who had their own Canadian whiskey smuggling operation on Harsens Island, an island close to Detroit. The Purple Gang, a feared Detroit bootlegging crew infamous for dangerous and unpredictable behavior, cornered the illegal markets in the city and heard that whiskey was coming onto the island without their control, leading to a fight between the veterans and gang members.
For the actors, they needed to research, study, and understand the characters that lived a century before.
Shane Hagedorn, producer at Collective Development, plays a part in the movie: Eddie Fletcher, a prominent member of the ruthless Purple Gang. He said to understand his role, he had to build a new persona from the ground up.
“It can start with just a ring, but you start to build your character and costume,” Hagedorn said. “You can’t make yourself disappear, I am who I am. But how I talk, walk, and act can really change that appearance.”
Hagedorn has family in Alpena and said he always wanted to bring a film to the town. He mentioned that more than 20 years ago, he shot scenes at Al’s Diner, a now-closed diner in Alpena, for a student film he created.
After a 30 minute lunch break on Monday, Hagedorn, other actors, and crew gathered around the old post office on North 1st Avenue.
Within five to 10 minutes, the director and producers were ready to shoot scenes. Scenes played out multiple times so the director could get different camera angles of the same sequence.
Extras stayed on the sidelines to watch. Some studio departments finished their job for the shoot and got pictures of candid behind-the-scenes moments.
Meghan Martin is the head of the hair department and co-founder of Gals and Ghouls, a hair and makeup service based in Lake Orion. Dayna Green, the other co-founder of Gals and Ghouls, is the head of the makeup department.
Martin said that the movie was really exciting and that the period it’s set in made the project interesting.
“That’s definitely really exciting,” Martin said. “It’s not something we have in our portfolio, currently. A few years ago, we were in Iowa and working on a ’40s piece, which was also fun, but this is a whole other beast – the ’20s. You get to have some creative freedoms with the hair and the makeup, and do things that aren’t modern and currently traditional.”
Manke, the author of “Harsens Island Revenge” said the book is available on his website, authorkarlmanke.com, for $20. He said he’s more than happy to ship books to interested customers.
“Well, you know, I’m 81,” Manke said. “I would have liked to have had all this publicity back when I was 16. That’s what you need when you’re 16. At my age, now, it’s okay. I enjoy it, you know, I like to see it. It’s sort of like, you know, it’s like it’s an accomplishment.”