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Roanoke Business Owner Turns Movie Producer

Eric Fitzpatrick drew this on the movie set; actress Jane Seymour (in silhouette at center) studies her lines.

by Gene Marrano

A Roanoke businessman originally contacted about being an investor in a locally filmed movie wound up being an executive producer for “Lake Effects” – now Bart Wilner has Hollywood actress Jane Seymour on his cell phone speed dial.  Wilner owns Entre Computer Center and is board chairman for the Roanoke Valley Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

“Lake Effects,” the saga of a family based at Smith Mountain Lake, was the brainchild of Sara Elizabeth Timmins, who now lives there. Based in Los Angeles as an aspiring actress for years, Timmins visited her parents, who had moved to the lake in retirement, then came up with the idea for “Lake Effects.” She put together a cast, crew and the money – that’s where Wilner came in. “It all started with a phone call from Sara Elizabeth Timmons,” he recalled.

“Lake Effects” will have a number of preview showings this weekend at the Westlake Cinema at Smith Mountain Lake. “Just don’t call it a premiere,” said Wilner, “that’s reserved for the distributor of the movie.” A number of people from the Roanoke area were also involved with the production, including artist Eric Fitzpatrick, who drew sketches on site during the filming.

Wilner points to the timeline in how the movie came to pass, and likes the business synergy he sees. Timmins’ parents vacationed at the Lake for years before retiring there. Sara visited for five years prior to moving. The notion of “Lake Effects” was then born, eventually spurring economic activity in the region. “That also points out the value of tourism,” said Wilner, wearing his Roanoke Valley Convention and Visitor’s Bureau hat.

He also likes that Smith Mountain Lake is called just that in “Lake Effects” – Smith Mountain Lake – instead of being renamed, as when “What About Bob?” was filmed there about 20 years ago. That name recognition after “Lake Effects” is released, “could lead to other film opportunities in this area.”

Timmins received “overwhelming support from the lake community and the [local] Chamber of Commerce” when “Lake Effects” was in production.  Wilner added that “free lodging [was] offered for the cast and crew,” as well as donated food and props, transportation, etc.

 Timmins wasn’t having as much luck raising money at the lake, and that’s where Wilner came into play; “somehow she ended up calling me.” He showed Timmins’ proposal to his wife Lynn, who grew up at the lake. Over a period of months Wilner’s relationship with Timmins and her parents turned into a strong friendship. He even did “due diligence, ” on Timmins in Hollywood, where she had worked as an assistant producer. Before long he was hosting cocktail parties, looking for other investors in “Lake Effects”—he and Lynn were the first.

Wilner won’t claim he’s best friends with actress Jane Seymour, the lead role in the film, but noted that the former Bond Girl and star of “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,” “has my cell phone number, and I have hers, and I get e-mails from her.” Sara Elizabeth Timmins is now collaborating with best-selling novelist David Baldacci, who has a house on the lake, for another film project based on his book “Wish You Well.”

Lake Effects screenings:  Westlake Cinema, 84 Westlake Road in Hardy.

Saturday, October 8TH, 4 p.m. & 7 p.m. 

Includes Film Q&A with director, producer and team. Suggested Donation: $15.

Sunday, October 9TH, 1 p.m., 4 p.m. & 7p.m., Suggested Donation: $10. 

Monday, October 10TH, 7p.m., Suggested Donation: $10.

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