Being extras in a movie opened the eyes of two Collinsville girls about the film industry but also the dangers of the Internet.
Haley Stone, 9, and Emily Cowher, 16, were featured as extras in the film called “Finding Faith” on July 21
“Finding Faith” is based on actual events about a young girl who falls victim to a skilled online predator.
According to the film’s website, it is a full-length narrative motion picture being filmed in central Virginia and West Virginia this summer. The film features Erik Estrada, a child advocate and celebrity, and will be released internationally in early 2013. The production is being done in close association with Liberty University and Thomas Road Baptist Church.
The film tells the story of Faith Garrett, who was abducted when she was 14. She had been texting and chatting for several weeks by cell phone with someone she believed to be a 16-year-old boy. She felt the relationship was innocent as they talked about normal teenage concerns.
But the person she was chatting with was not really 16; he was a 38-year-old man who disguised himself as the boy. He and a female companion drove more than 400 miles from his home in Pittsburgh to abduct Garrett, the website said.
This film shows how a model family, the Garretts, can be torn apart by tragedy, and then built back together by faith. It highlights the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force’s efforts to rescue children from predators, often right before these children come to great harm.
The movie is designed to show how even the tightest families and most guarded parents often cannot stop predators, the website said.
The Collinsville girls were extras in the film’s “youth rally” scene, as well as a scene of the two girls standing and talking before the rally, according to Haley’s mother, Debby Stone. She added that there were about 30 youth featured in the rally scene.
“It was really fun,” said Haley Stone. Though she had no previous acting experience, she said, “it just came natural.”
A part of the movie set that Haley really liked was getting her hair and makeup done.
“Ever since she (Haley) could talk, she’s said that she’s wanted to be an actress,” Debby Stone said. She added that she was excited to get Haley involved in the film so that she could experience what it was like on a movie set.
Haley was on the set for more than eight hours and said she found it tiring, but that did not discourage her from wanting to pursue acting when she gets older.
Tight security around Estrada prevented the girls from meeting or even seeing Estrada, Debby Stone said. But they did meet Stephanie Bettcher, who is portraying Faith Garrett in the film.
Bettcher came out of the dressing room, shook the girls’ hands and hugged them, Stone said.
To be a celebrity and a professional actress, “I couldn’t imagine a better person (than Bettcher),” Cowher said.
Not only were the celebrities nicer than she expected, but the set was different than she imagined, too, Cowher said.
She was intrigued by “all of the hustle and bustle” of the set, she said. She did not expect the set to be so active and busy and she also did not expect to be there for more than eight hours doing take after take, she added.
Cowher never had acted until this experience. She now aspires to pursue acting on the side someday, but said her main focus after graduating from high school is to go to medical school.
The girls found out about the opportunity to be in the film through Haley’s modeling. A photographer in Lynchburg through her modeling agency let her know about the opportunity to be in the movie.
Haley had to email a picture of herself to the producers for a chance of it being featured on a missing child’s board during a scene of the movie, Stone said. Stone let Cowher’s family know about the opportunity and they sent in Cowher’s picture as well.
Both girls received emails back saying that their pictures would be used in the film on the missing child’s board. Shortly after that, they got another email asking them to come to Lynchburg to be featured as an extra, said Ginger Hines, Cowher’s mother.
Hines did not mind her daughter being involved in the film because “the subject matter really interested me,” and she felt it would be beneficial for Emily to be in a movie with such a strong message about the dangers of the Internet, she said.
Cowher said being in the film did open her eyes to Internet dangers. Girls her age, especially, need to “be very careful and cautious” — they need to know who they are talking to on the Internet and to only talk to people they associate with on a day-to-day basis, she added.
It was such a new and exciting experience for Cowher and “I would definitely let Emily try it again if she wanted to,” Hines said.
“I enjoyed myself and I’ll never forget it,” Cowher said, adding that it will be a great memory that she can look back on from her teenage years.
Haley is the daughter of Tom and Debby Stone of Collinsville. She will be attending third grade at John Redd Smith Elementary School in the fall. Emily is the daughter of Brent and Ginger Hines and Jay and Karen Cowher, all of Collinsville. She will be a junior at Bassett High School this fall.