October 17, 2011

State of Alabama
Press Release: Alabama Department of Commerce

Movie To Be Filmed in Alabama

     A new movie for the Hallmark Hall of Fame, premiering on ABC in 2012, will begin filming in Alabama on Wednesday at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center’s Space Camp in Huntsville.    

     About 100 cast and crew members are expected to spend about two weeks here working on the project, said Tim Hall, the center's spokesman.

     The story is based on the book, "A Smile as Big as the Moon: A Teacher, His Class and Their Unforgettable Journey," written by the former coach and teacher Mike Kersjes with journalist Joe Layden and published in 2002.  The script is by Tom Rickman (Coal Miner’s Daughter, Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Front of the Class).

    The production was assisted by the Alabama Film Office, now a division of the Alabama Development Office.  Film Office staff members recommended crew and local vendors, provided logistical support, assisted with labor forms, and helped the company qualify for film tax incentives, which will be applied once the film is completed and audited.

     AFO promotes the state to the film and video industry as a site for on-location production for feature films, television, music videos, industrial and corporate training films and commercials.

     “Film and television production is a form of economic development that can bring millions of dollars into local economies throughout the state,” said Alabama Development Office Director Greg Canfield. “All of the states are competing aggressively for these film dollars and we are going to make sure that Alabama stays ahead of the race. Alabama now has one of the most aggressive film legislative incentives packages in the country, which is making the state more competitive.”

     John Corbett (November Christmas)  plays Mike Kersjes, a high school football coach and special-education teacher who teams up with fellow teacher Robynn McKinney (played by Jessy Schram – Hawthorne, The Mentalist) to achieve an impossible dream:  to take a group of special-ed children to NASA’s Space Camp.

     Space Camp is a competitive education program at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.  Even though it’s designed for gifted science students, Mike decides participating in the summer program would do wonders for the self-esteem of his students – especially Ben, a boy with Downs Syndrome, who dreams of becoming an astronaut.

     Mike Kersjes faced incredible obstacles in trying to make his impossible dream become inspiring reality.  School administrators opposed the plan – too expensive, they said.  Space Camp officials were understandably flummoxed; they’d never had special-ed students apply before.

     At long last, Mike and his students were given the green light.  That’s when the real challenges began.  It took nine months of rigorous teaching, learning and training before the class was ready to take on the world. 

     In the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, many of the special-ed students are played by young actors who are, indeed, “special.”  with disabilities such as Down syndrome and autism.

     A Smile as Big as the Moon is directed by James Sadwith (Elvis, Life Is Wild).  The executive producers are Brent Shields (Beyond the Blackboard, The Lost Valentine) and Dan Paulson (Saving Jessica Lynch, Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Pictures of Hollis Woods).  It is from Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions, Inc. 




Press Contacts:

Ellen Nesselrode Jasa                     Russ Patrick              Nicole Marostica, ABC

Hallmark Hall of Fame                      Patrick Comm.          ABC

816 274-8099                                  310 385-9401           818 460-6783

Enesse1@hallmark.com                                       Russ@russpatrick.com        Nicole.Y.Marostica@abc.com



Ellen Gonzalez, ABC                         Gerri Miller

818-460-7185                                   334-242-0476

Ellen.M.Gonzalez@abc.com                                  gerri.miller@ado.alabama.gov

  • For more information, visit http://commerce.alabama.gov
  • For more state-wide press releases, click here