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Miss Irena's Children: Filming in Rīga

On the 13th of November, 2008, in Rīga, two American film companies, Hallmark Hall of Fame and Gillham Road Productions Inc., began shooting for their new feature film Miss Irena's Children, to be premiered in May 2009 on the CBS TV channel.


It is the historic architecture of the Latvian capital with its streets, back parts of buildings and the particular flavour of Vecrīga that made the production team choose Rīga over seven other alternative locations in various countries. Several scenes have already been filmed here in Andrejsala, where also the filming crew's base camp has been established.


Anna Paquin, an Academy Award winner, stars as a young Polish woman named Irena Sendler. The real-life Sendler, during the 2nd World War, saved thousands of Jewish children and became a Nobel Peace Prize nominee in 2007.


Between the 22nd of October and the 13th of November, in Andrejsala there took place a casting of actors and extras organised by Gillham Road Productions. Simultaneous castings were also carried out in the USA, Canada, Great Britain, Poland and Lithuania. The Latvian casting attracted a total of 3,000 people—including pensioners, families with small children, school students and local ethnic Jews—of whom 2,000 were hired.


Miss Irena's Children will not only star Marcia Gay Harden, Paul Freeman, Goran Višnjić, Scott Handy and Steve Speirs, but also employ their Latvian colleagues Imants Vekmanis, Imants Strads, Romualds Ancāns, Leonīds Grabovskis, Andris Grošs, Vilis Daudziņš, Toms Āboltiņš, Didzis Eglītis, Mārtiņš Šmits and Ģirts Lukevics. An important child character, Jasio, will be played by a young and talented student from Rīga's Osvalds High School, named Sergejs Marčenko. 


The new film's director and scriptwriter John Kent Harrison sources from writer Anna Mieszkowska's book Mother of the Holocaust Children: the Story of Irena Sendler. The art direction of the production is taken care of by two US-based professionals of Polish descent: production designer Waldemar Kalinowski and cinematographer Jerzy Zielinski.


Hallmark Hall of Fame has also hired Brent Shields as production supervisor, in order to ensure streamlined and creative filming. Shields has been in this role in over 50 different productions; his portfolio sports such successful made-for-TV pictures as William Faulkner's Old Man, Thomas Hardy's The Return of the Native, Oscar Wilde's The Canterville Ghost, as well as screen versions of works by contemporary authors August Wilson, John Grisham, Pat Conroy and Anne Tyler. The producer has worked alongside a number of big names in screen acting, e.g., Kathy Bates, Glenn Close, Laurence Fishburne, Diane Lane, Jessica Lange, Laura Linney, Mary-Louise Parker and Gary Sinise.


Jeff Most, who shares the production supervision role with Shields, has more than two decades of experience in television and filmmaking. In addition to his fruitful activity as a movie producer, he's also an author, director and music recording producer. Mr Most produced the Canadian TV series The Crow: Stairway to Heaven and feature film The Specialist, the latter starring Sylvester Stallone and Sharon Stone.   


The American film business Hallmark Hall of Fame started in 1950. Since then it has completed more than 130 films. Its artistic success has yielded it 78 Emmy awards and several dozen Golden Globes.


The filming of Miss Irena's Children happens to be the first such American-initiated movie project in Latvia and is expected to energise and inspire not only the local film industry but also the art and culture goings-on in the wider sense of the word. The filmmakers wish to extend their thanks to Rigans and local businesses for the understanding and helpfulness during the filming. They also hope that the remaining days of Miss Irena's Children in Rīga will be as successful and pleasurable both for the creators and the local residents.


Further details: Ingrīda Nagle, assistant to project supervisor in Latvia, phone + 371 27504018.


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