Lights, camera … action

Camas stars in two films showing at Liberty Theatre this month

Director Shawn Justice, of Vancouver, (left) works on his film, "A Murder of Innocence," with the film's stars, Rachel MacMillan (right), who plays Aimee Anderson, and Frank Chiesurin (center), who plays Pastor Albert Anderson in the Christian-themed thriller. (Contributed photo courtesy of Shawn Justice)

The poster for "All Around Us," a movie featuring Camas psychic and medium Seth Michael. (Courtesy of Seth Michael)

"A Murder of Innocence" director Shawn Justice (right) films a scene from the Christian thriller, based on a true story, in Southwest Washington. (Contributed photo courtesy of Shawn Justice)

Director Tristan David Luciotti (left) sits in downtown Camas with the star of his film "All Around Us," Seth Michael (right) and Michael's girlfriend Jyl Straub (center), of The Wild Hair salon in Camas.

Camas psychic/medium Seth Michael (left) is filmed by Portland director Tristan David Luciotti (right) during the making of "All Around Us." (Courtesy of Jyl Straub)

Jyl Straub (left) and Seth Michael (right) attend the premiere of "All Around Us" at the Times Theater in Seaside, Ore. (Contributed photo courtesy of Jyl Straub)

If you like to shop local, eat local and support local, two films coming to Camas’ Liberty Theatre will be right up your alley.

The first, “A Murder of Innocence,” directed by Vancouver filmmaker Shawn Justice, shows at 7:30 p.m. tonight and includes a special question-and-answer (Q&A) session with Justice. The second, “All Around Us,” directed by Portland filmmaker Tristan David Luciotti, shows at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, May 23, and also will host a Q&A session with its star, Camas psychic-medium Seth Michael, and director.

Both films are incredibly Camas-centric.

“A Murder of Innocence” was shot primarily in the Camas area and features several Camas-Washougal actors. “All Around Us” also features Camas locales, including a scene shot inside Camas Antiques, and highlights the life and work of Michael, who works out of his girlfriend Jyl Straub’s downtown Camas salon, The Wild Hair.

‘A Murder of Innocence’ based on a true story

True crime buffs may be interested in Justice’s “A Murder of Innocence,” which is based on an actual 1971 murder that took place in the rain shadow of Washington state’s Olympic Mountains.

A Christian-based film, “A Murder of Innocence” explores the fear that grips the small town of Sequim, Washington, after Pastor Albert Anderson and his wife, Aimee Anderson, discover the bodies of their murdered friends.

“This happened in the early 1970s, when my youngest was just a baby,” Aimee, now 83, told the Post-Record last week. “It was such a traumatic thing in our lives and I was so gripped by fear. It’s almost an unreal story … but the finished product is really very close to the real thing. Some of it could have been even more dramatic.”

Having already written about the murder and her subsequent descent into “a paralyzing shock and fear” — from which she says God’s love finally released her — Aimee tried to find film directors to produce a film about her experiences and her friends’ murders. After two unsuccessful attempts, Aimee heard about Justice, a Vancouver filmmaker who had 30 years of filmmaking experience at that point, including directing a variety of commercial projects for The Outdoor Channel, National Geographic, Bank of America, Columbia Sportswear and Adidas.

Justice also had directed a handful of successful Christian movies, including a film about the realities of teen sex and the abstinence-only movement that was backed by the Family Research Council in 2000, when he met Aimee. His versatility and Christian background appealed to the pastor’s widow.

“I knew it was going to take a special person to do it the way it should be done, and when I talked to Shawn, I knew he was that person,” Aimee said.

Aimee also recognized that Justice had a deep and personal understanding of traumatic, life-altering experiences. Just a few years before Aimee contacted him regarding “A Murder of Innocence,” Justice had suffered the unimaginable horror of losing a child after his 15-year-old son, Caleb Justice, fell into a deep pool at the base of a waterfall during a Christian youth outing in Oregon Tygh Valley and drowned.

“He had a heart for people,” Justice said of Caleb. “He always rooted for the underdog and he was inclusive. He just loved people. And he loved God.”

Heartbroken by the loss of their son, Justice and his wife, Sara, wanted to make a movie that would honor Caleb’s loving spirit. Justice made “Reconciler,” a film about a mysterious man known as the Reconciler who, according to the movie’s Amazon page, “gathers people who are estranged, angry and distant from each other to see if they can reconcile their differences before it’s too late.”

Like many of his movies, including “A Murder of Innocence” and a film called “Out of the Darkness,” Justice shot “Reconciler” in Southwest Washington and tried to use local scenes and actors.

When Aimee approached him about shooting “A Murder of Innocence,” Justice knew he would return to the Camas-Washougal area again. He also wanted to use local actors. The vast majority of the people acting in the thriller live in the Portland-Vancouver area and a few are from Camas-Washougal, including Ava Petruna, who plays Mary Anderson; Cody Leo, who plays Jonathan Anderson; Justin Petruna, who plays Mike Benard; Marty Miller, who plays Mr. Renton; and Robin Cannon Clarke, who plays a church secretary.

Locals may recognize much of the scenery in the movie, including the Luke and Francine Reese home and Renton house, which were both shot in Washougal; and the nature park and psychiatric hospital, which were both set in Camas.

Justice shot the film in just 20 days, in May 2017, and it premiered in June 2018, also at the Liberty Theatre in downtown Camas.

“We packed the place,” Justice said of the 2018 Liberty Theatre premiere. “A lot of the cast and crew came from this area, so they brought their family and friends.”

Since its premiere, “A Murder of Innocence” has received accolades at several Christian film festivals, including being an official selection of the Kingdomwood Film Festival, and being nominated for best feature film at the Christian Media Association Content 18 and best lead actress and actor at the Canadian International Faith and Family Film Festival. For more information about the film, visit justicepictures.com.

Tickets for tonight’s 7:30 p.m., showing at Liberty Theatre cost $10 or $8 for seniors/children. Justice will host a Q&A session following the movie.

‘All Around Us’ gives insight into life of Camas psychic/medium

The second Camas-focused film, “All Around Us,” which premiered earlier this year at the Oregon Ghost Conference at the Times Theater in Seaside, Oregon, dives into the life and work of Camas psychic and medium Seth Michael and also features several Camas-specific scenes, including a scene set inside the Camas Antiques store in the heart of Camas’ downtown.

Michael, along with the film’s executive director, Tristan David Luciotti, and Michael’s girlfriend, Camas native Jyl Straub, said they hope the movie will be able to dispel some myths associated with people who bridge the gap between the physical and spirit worlds.

“Many people have a fear of the unknown, but if they just opened their mind a little bit, they would probably get a lot of comfort out of it,” Michael said of his ability to communicate with spirits and help people overcome their own emotional blocks.

Luciotti said he recognized Michael’s unique gifts and abilities right away.

“I grew up in a Pentecostal family. It felt like we were in church every day,” Luciotti told the Post-Record this week. “And, although we had prophets and angels … when it came to psychics or mediums, we were always told they were evil, that we should keep away from it.”

Luciotti, a board member for the Twilight Theater Company in North Portland, met Michael during a gallery reading — when a medium channels messages from beyond in a group setting — for Twilight.

Michael channeled Luciotti’s grandfather during that reading and said he was picking up on a woman surrounded by boxes. Luciotti’s mother had brought movers to help his grandmother that very day.

“It was a beautiful thing,” Luciotti said of the gallery reading with Michael. “And I realized this wasn’t something scary, something to stay away from.”

The more time he spent with Michael, the more Luciotti changed his mind about psychics and mediums.

“There is nothing evil about Seth. He has a white light energy. People are drawn to him, to his loving energy,” Luciotti said of Michael. “I wanted to make this movie to show my family … to maybe change their beliefs.”

The documentary started as a movie short, but quickly transformed into a full-length film with nearly $10,000 in individuals backing the initial Kickstarter campaign.

Michael and Straub, who met online as friends a few years ago and quickly realized they had both met their soulmate, live together in Fern Prairie and work together in downtown Camas — Straub, who grew up in her family’s nearby Straub’s Funeral Home, working as a stylist in the main portion of her The Wild Hair salon and Michael working with clients in a side room inside The Wild Hair.

Michael and Straub cofounded White Light Paranormal Insight, a group that sponsors the always-sold-out, annual Ghosts & Spirits Downtown Camas Haunted Walking Tour that tours downtown Camas locations and highlights the town’s ghosts and paranormal activity.

“The Downtown Camas Association has been very supportive,” Michael said. “Camas is a great town. I was nervous about talking to Rand (Thornsley, owner of the Liberty) about showing ‘All Around Us’ there, but he was really nice and gave us a few dates that might work.”

Making the film was a cathartic experience, Michael said.

“Having this opportunity to talk like this and make this movie has been a profound experience for me,” Michael said. “Hopefully this will reach people who really need to see it.”

Michael said the bulk of his work is about helping people and letting them find the closure they need to cope with the passing of a loved one or a beloved pet.

“Most people just want to make sure their loved one is OK,” Michael said.

The Camas psychic medium also helps other empaths who might want to explore their own psychic or medium abilities, teaching classes online and in person, and encouraging people to recognize their “gut feelings” are telling them something.

“All Around Us” is available to stream now and will be available on DVD, with special bonus footage, at the end of July. For more information, visit allaroundusfilm.com.

The showing at Liberty Theatre in downtown Camas begins at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, May 23. Tickets cost $10 or $8 for seniors/children. Michael and Luciotti will conduct a Q&A session following the movie.