Tonawanda News — About nine years ago, Town of Tonawanda actor Bonnie Jean Taylor recalls, she and fellow classmate Mel Ende at Kenmore West High School envisioned what it would be like to make movies together someday.
Taylor was interested in acting and Ende was more interested in what went on behind the camera.
Fast forward about a decade and Taylor and Ende found themselves working on the same movie — “Give and Take” — currently being filmed in locations throughout Western New York, including the City of Tonawanda. Taylor plays the lead role of Ellie, and Ende co-owns ND Studios, which is providing lighting and technical work for the production.
The actress said she was surprised to run into Ende at one of the first scenes they shot.
“She was in my math class and I remembered how we used to talk about how when we were grown up she was going to make movies and I was going to star in them,” Taylor said with a laugh, pointing out that they weren’t at all paying attention to the math lesson.
Ende said Taylor was practically in tears the day on set when she recalled their dream as teenagers.
“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I remember.’ It’s pretty great that the studio’s been able to work with her finally,” Ende said.
The two just wrapped up shooting on the film “Give and Take,” written and produced by another Kenmore West graduate, Gail Golden. She said a handful of the cast and crew all hail from the school; some were brought on board because of that connection, with others it was just happenstance.
When everyone realized just how many were involved — at least six — “we all started squealing,” Golden said.
Perhaps that Ken West connection is what has made the cast and crew the tight-knit family Ende describes it as.
“Everybody cares so much about each other. I know that’s silly to mention, but it’s so important,” Ende said. “This group of people is really dedicated to make this film look good.”
Golden, who is an actor and also appears in the film, wrote the comedy as a loose autobiographical story. Ellie’s life, she said, mimics hers in a handful of ways.
“It’s about a girl, who’s a very giving person who keeps getting used and taken in by other people,” Golden said. “Finally she’s had enough and learns to take care of herself.”
Ellie lives in New York City with her husband, who decides he wants to move back to their hometown in Buffalo.
“It’s about her trying find who she is in Buffalo,” Taylor. “She was really happy and sure of herself in New York City ... she found her niche there. When she came home she was lost.”
When Ellie moves back to Western New York, she finds herself working at a fictional amusement park, Candy Island theme park.
Like Ellie, Golden has spent many years living outside of Buffalo, including 10 years in Orlando where she worked as a variety of characters at different theme parks. Golden described writing the screenplay as very cathartic. She’s also playing the part of another character in the film.
“That was interesting to me because now I’m seeing things from the point of view of another person,” she said.
Because the film is about an actor, much of Buffalo’s theater scene has played a starring role in the film. The production has shot at the Kavinoky Theatre at D’youville College and the New Phoenix Theatre on the Park, in addition to a couple stops in the Tonawandas.
Golden said they shot at the City of Tonawanda Library on Oct. 27 and also a scene at the Anderson’s Frozen Custard on Sheridan Drive in the town.
“People like (those at) the libraries and the theaters in town have been so wonderful letting use locations for free,” Golden said, pointing out that “Give and Take” was shot on a low budget.
Taylor said she was particularly excited to work on “Give and Take” because its treatment of Buffalo as the setting.
“When I hear about feature films being shot here, usually they’re bringing in actors from elsewhere or they’re trying to make Buffalo look like someplace else because it’s cheap to shoot,” the actress said. “It will be exciting for people from Buffalo to go see (the film) because they’ll see all these places they recognize.”
The film is scheduled to premiere in September in Buffalo, after which Golden said she plans to submit it for film festivals. “Give and Take” is directed by Scott Andrew Kurchak and features actors Vincent O’Neill, Richard Lambert, MaryKate O’Connell, Joe Demerly and Lorna Hill.Contact features editor Danielle Haynes at 693-1000, ext. 4116.