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Tacoma-made movie with 'Starship Troopers' Casper Van Dien is just latest for local film company

Tacoma is backdrop for 'Last Seen In Idaho' movie

Official trailer for the suspense/thriller Last Seen in Idaho starring Hallie Shepherd, Wes Ramsey, Shawn Christian, & Casper Van Dien.
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Official trailer for the suspense/thriller Last Seen in Idaho starring Hallie Shepherd, Wes Ramsey, Shawn Christian, & Casper Van Dien.

If you thought you saw Casper Van Dien, the star of cult classic "Starship Troopers," on the streets of Tacoma, you weren't imagining things. Just don't expect an invasion of gigantic bugs any time soon.

Van Dien is the co-star of a film shot around the South Sound in 2016.

The thriller "Last Seen in Idaho" comes out April 24 on several video-on-demand services. It was filmed in Tacoma, Gig Harbor, Olympia, Yelm, Port Orchard, Tenino and other locations.

Tenino happens to be the hometown of the film's director, Eric Colley. Along with partner (and Winlock native) Hallie Shepherd, the pair have been producing movies in Tacoma since 2005.

"Idaho" is their third film. They are finishing production work on their fourth film, a feature directed by and starring Cuba Gooding, Jr.

Van Dien and Shepherd co-star in "Idaho" with Wes Ramsey of "General Hospital" and Shawn Christian of "Days of Our Lives."

Shepherd plays a woman in "Idaho" who witnesses a murder. Van Dien's character puts a couple of well-aimed slugs into her car, destroying it. When she wakes up from a coma she has no memory of the crime but instead foresees her own murder. She needs to solve her impending demise to prevent it from happening.

"She can avoid the murder if she stays out of Idaho," Shepherd said.

"That's easier said than done," Colley added.

Despite its name, most of the film is set in Tacoma — something that doesn't always happen when film crews come to town and turn Tacoma into some other city.

Locals will recognize plenty of scenery. A chase through the Landmark Convention Center and Temple Theatre culminates on the building's roof with a backdrop of Tacoma.

During that chase, Shepherd's character runs across a stage and through dancers from Puyallup's Elite School of Dance and the Tenino-based band LKMY.

Other locations includes a rock quarry in Port Orchard, Tenino's main drag, a private residence in Gig Harbor, River Road in Puyallup, a barn in Yelm and a shop building in Olympia.

Shepherd and Colley met when both were just out of college. They shared an interest in movie-making.

"I didn't see it as a pathway to a career," Shepherd said. A longtime writer, Shepherd began penning screenplays.

Their first collaboration was the campy horror film "GPS" in 2007.

"We learned a lot making that film," Shepherd said. "It's really hard to shoot a film on a tight budget."

During "GPS's" production, the pair moved their Fireshoe Productions to Tacoma.

Shepherd usually acts in their company's film. She wrote the script for "Idaho." Her acting experience informs her writing.

"As an actor, she knows what actors want to play," Colley said.

The pair made the 2015 World War II themed film, "The Last Rescue," in Alabama. It made use of historical re-enactors, including one who had a field of vintage equipment.

"Rescue" was shot on a $200,000 budget. The pair would not disclose the budget of "Idaho," but the Gooding Jr. film, "Louisana Caviar," has a $3.7 million budget.

That film co-stars Richard Dreyfuss, Famke Janssen and Katharine McPhee. Shepherd and Colley produced it and Shepherd has a part in it.

Their films are funded by private investors.

A film like "Idaho" can be a boost to the local economy through lodging, food, production crews and other sources.

"We try to hire as many locals as we can," Shepherd said. They've also used interns from University of Washington Tacoma and other local schools.

Though they've filmed in other states to take advantage of more generous tax incentives than Washington offers, the duo have no plans to abandon Tacoma. Making films in the region is so much easier than other parts of the country inured to film making.

"Here, people are excited (to work with film crews,)" Colley said. "They're not soured by Hollywood film-making."

The film industry's move to digital photography, smaller cameras, easier lighting set-ups and other changes has decentralized film making, allowing companies like Fireshoe to leave the sphere of Hollywood, Colley said.

"LA's a whole other world," Colley said.

"Last Seen in Idaho" will be available on DVD and video-on-demand platforms including iTunes, Amazon Instant, Google Play, Xbox, PlayStation, Vudu and cable/satellite providers.

Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541, @crsailor
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