If you were in downtown Medford on Sunday and saw cop cars, fire engines, TV news cameras and a mob pointing to a four-story building as if someone were about to jump, don't worry; they were shooting a movie, one in which an angel takes over the body of a desperate man wanting to bid farewell to this cruel world.
The film, "Walk-In" — it means the angel walked into the guy's body — was written by Ashlander Scott Blum from his trilogy of spiritually based books. He's also the director and producer of the film, which will be released to film festivals and for DVD sales, with hopes of being picked up for major theater distribution.
"Walk-In" is being shot over 28 days in many locations around the valley, including Rogue Valley Medical Center, the Red Lion, a house on Wimer Street in Ashland and the locale of the attempted suicide on West Main in Medford.
It's considered a "micro-budget" film, shot entirely with local actors and with crew mostly from Portland and the Rogue Valley — and made possible with a matching grant of 10 to 20 percent of its budget, from the Oregon Film Office in Salem.
Filming went smoothly in Medford, with local restaurants donating food and agencies — the Talent and Medford fire departments and Talent police — providing vehicles to make the suicide jumper scene look authentic.
Hired extras packed Main Street behind barricades, gawking and acting horrified.
The weather also cooperated — partly sunny, chilly, but no rain — and everyone, says Blum, "has been so supportive."
Danforth Comins of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival welcomed the "wonderful opportunity to act in a feature film and sleep in my own bed," something he wouldn't have gotten if he'd had to shift to Los Angeles to find work during the festival's dark months.
As the male protagonist, Comins at first plays a regular guy who has lost his job and health insurance and faces astronomical medical bills, which he wants to stop by ending his life, so his wife will have a shot at financial survival.
When the angel takes over his body, the guy becomes a puppy and the angel goes home to the guy's wife, who notices some definite behavior changes — and not all for the better, since the angel is trying to learn how to be human but doesn't understand the human notions of morality.
In the process, the man-angel intervenes with another distraught man, who stands on the upper edge of a four-story building, about to jump. Police manage to stop the suicide and put handcuffs on both.
The movie, like "City of Angels" and "Legion," where angels also inhabit humans' bodies, does not have a sweet ending, says Blum, but, spiritually, "there is resolution and it's not all happy or sad." Former Oregon Stage Works actor Sam King, who plays the other jumper, said his character has a short part — a man "having a bad day," but he's happy to get the work following OSW's demise last spring, and he's pleasantly surprised at the confidence and skill of the film's talent, both in front of and behind the camera.
The first assistant director, Jackson Rowe, is an Ashland High School graduate, now working in film in Portland. His brother Bill Rowe is second assistant director, also working in Portland. They are sons of Douglas Rowe, an OSF and TV actor. Gary and Ann Lundgren of Joma Films in Ashland are working on the film, she as production manager and he as line producer.
The film is based on Blum's books, "Summer's Path" and "Waiting for Autumn," both published in the past few years by Hay House. The author's third book in the series, "Winter Moon Rises," will come out in November.
"They are international best sellers, published in 15 languages," he says.
Blum hails from tiny Etna, near Yreka, and found his spiritual path 25 years ago under the guidance of a guru, then, during personal crisis, left it to work in Los Angeles, commuting 45 minutes to work and, with his wife, doing a lot of yoga and meditation "to deal with the craziness" of the city.
They began to find their way, getting into business with aromatherapy and publishing an online spiritual newsletter, www.dailyom.com, which offers inspirational quotes, articles, horoscopes and courses from noted spiritual teachers. It now boasts more than a million subscribers.
"Coming here to live 10 years ago "really opened me up again," says Blum. "Everything I was trying to do in L.A. is just daily life here. My goal is not to have spiritual practices but to have it be every moment, living it."
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.