ROCKFORD — Coco Key water park became a movie set Thursday as a father honored his late 10-year-old son with a film project to raise money to fight the brain cancer that killed him.
The movie, “Thrill Ride,” is a low-budget children’s action film by Mason’s Movies, a nonprofit company formed by Chris Parrish of Woodstock after the death of his son, Mason, three years ago from diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma.
The film stars Kristen Johnson, who won two Emmy Awards as Sally in TV’s “Third Rock From the Son.” Set in an amusement park, it is the story of three kids who sneak into the park one night to hunt for loot that Al Capone was said to have buried there. The park’s attractions — a sea witch, evil mermaid, pirates and monsters — come alive and give the kids what Parrish describes as a “wild and dangerous ride beyond all imagination.”
The plot was Mason’s idea and father and son, who tossed movie ideas back and forth like a game of catch, wrote and pitched the idea to studios.
“Mason was a naturally gifted storyteller,” said Parrish, who moved to Illinois after 18 years as a screen and TV writer in Los Angeles.
Writing was one of the things Mason was able to do as his cancer progressed. He wrote until he could write no longer.
Parrish said that on the day Mason slipped into a coma his son said, “Mom I feel like writing. Give me my notebook.”
Mason’s Movies found backing from Vince Foglia, founder of the Cary manufacturer of disposable health and personal care items, Sage Products.
“He doesn’t want a dime,” Parrish said, noting that half of the film’s proceeds will fund future films and the other half will go toward brain cancer research, vans equipped for disabled children and for an after- school program, Cartoon Comics Inc., which teaches the craft of cartooning and storytelling.
Parrish did not disclose the film’s budget, but said that in comparison with a big budget Hollywood product “it will cost what they spend on sushi.”
The film, which will be released in 2015, will be about 90 minutes.
“That’s the target,” said producer Angie Gaffney. “We recognize the short attention span of children.”
Part of the story involves a water park. Alex Hughes, location manager for Mason’s Movies, said Coco Key at the Clock Tower Resort and Conference Center was chosen from a half-dozen parks he considered for the film because it had the decor for a pirate theme. He describes the film as “Goonies” meets “Night at the Museum.”
Hughes said most of the movie will be filmed at Chicago Studio City, where the rest of the amusement park was built.
There will be no weapons or swearing in “Thrill Ride.”
“This is a PG movie,” Hughes said.
Brian Leaf: 815-987-1343; firstname.lastname@example.org; @b_leaf