by Carolyn Kaberline
LENEXA — Summer moviegoers who think a couple characters on the big screen look an awful lot like some folks they see at Mass on Sunday might just be right.
Prince of Peace, Olathe, parishioners Dan Stalp and his two sons — Dominic and Jackson — are making their silver screen debut as extras in the new faith-based movie, “A Long Way Off.”
The film, a modern-day retelling of the biblical story of the prodigal son, explores the relationship of a father and son while demonstrating the mercy and forgiveness of God. Starring Jason Burkey, John Diehl, Robert Davi, and Robert Amaya, the film opened June 13 at the AMC Studio 30 in Olathe. The film also features Kansas City native Edie McClurg, best known for her work in “Frozen” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” The Stalps appear in the prodigal son reunion party scene.
With the movie filming in the Raleigh, N.C., area, the Stalps may not have seemed to be the most likely candidates to be called in as extras. Dan, however, had a personal connection to the production.
“I have known the producer Jerry McGlothlin for a couple of years,” said Dan. “He had interviewed me on several radio shows through his company ‘Special Guests.’”
McGlothlin had originally called to ask whether Dan’s book, “The Reunion,” could be used as product placement. But one thing led to another, and Dan was asked if he and his family would be interested in being extras in the film.
“I was initially not interested unless one or more of my kids could be involved,” said Dan. As things turned out, while his daughters were unable to make it to Raleigh on the day of the shoot, his sons were eager to help.
In fact, Dominic, an eighth-grader at Prince of Peace, was excited “to see some stars,” and Jackson, a sophomore at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park, believed it could be “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Even though all agreed that waiting in the extras room for several hours before they were actually in the film, then taking an “hour and a half to get five minutes of film,” as Dominic noted, was tedious, all three enjoyed the experience.
For Dominic, the best part of being an extra was “being in the living room with all the main characters and acting in a scene with my brother.”
“We had to ‘mouth’ the words to each other rather than actually speaking,” he said.
“Seeing all the characters — some famous — come together and watching all the behind-the-scenes outtakes” made the experience worthwhile for Jackson.
Both boys also enjoyed the reactions of their teachers and classmates to their movie debuts.
“My friends didn’t believe me at first,” said Dominic. “Once [my teacher] Ms. McKimmey confirmed it was true, my classmates thought it was cool.”
Jackson said that many of his classmates didn’t believe him at first either, until he began describing all that they’d seen and done.
Now that filming is done, Dan hopes to see it do well at the box office.
“The movie illustrates life is not about possessions and money,” he said. “It’s about relationships here on earth and [in] eternity. Also, God gives us rules — not to control us and take the fun out of life, but to protect us so we can live the abundant life in him.”
Dan and his family believe in the film and its message enough to sponsor its Olathe showing.
“I see this as an opportunity to evangelize and contribute to something where God is already working,” he said.
So far, the film has received positive feedback from those who have seen it in other cities.
“They felt the filming was very professional, and the actors made the timeless story seem real in today’s society,” Dan said.
Now that Dan and his sons have seen the results of their movie debuts, all would agree to be in another film if the chance presented itself.
“Yes, it was especially fun since it was filmed in North Carolina, and I got out of school one day,” said Dominic.
Jackson was also ready for another chance.
“It was fun and I learned a lot,” he said. “It’s exciting for my friends to see me on the big screen.”
Dan would also be involved again as long as his family members were there with him.
“I really enjoyed spending 36 hours just with my boys doing this together,” he said. “It was rewarding to watch them stay in the role, and we met some phenomenal people in the ‘extras room.’”
The movie is rated PG.