Holiday Movie Filmed In Celina

Article by Christine Clark

Photography by courtesy photography

Originally published in Celina Lifestyle

When you mix a quaint downtown square bustling with activity and a Hallmark-like small town Christmas tree lighting event, you have the formula for a perfect faith-based holiday movie. For 11 days in November and December 2022, Producer, Director and Actor Angus Benfield of Bridge & Acorn Entertainment brought The Great Turkey Town Miracle to life in downtown Celina and across the community.

Local writers, Steve Dini and Joren Christensen, wrote an inspiring tale of redemption, faith, family, and the power of prayer. They met years earlier through friends at the church they both attend in California. Writing and movie-making had been a passion for both. Dini found he had a good idea for a movie based on his own story as an unemployed radio DJ. But he found he needed a story with more depth to help flush out the characters. He soon joined forces with Joren Christensen whose wife had passed away some years earlier. They worked on the project for a while, meeting up from time to time to solve story and plot problems, but overall, both agree it was a great collaboration. That collaboration resulted in a story that they both truly enjoyed.

The screenplay for The Great Turkey Town Miracle is a mash up of both Dini and Christensen’s real-life events and include the story of job loss, widowhood, new job, and overcoming overwhelming obstacles with the power of prayer. As the story develops, the central character, played by Angus Benfield, must gather four thousand turkeys before Thanksgiving to keep his new job and family together.

Benfield of Bridge & Acorn Entertainment had purchased the rights to the script and shared that it would be 5th on his company’s production list. But after learning more about Celina, The Great Turkey Town Miracle quickly jumped-up Benfield’s priority list.

The real star of this movie is the City of Celina. The movie opens with a flyover of the Celina water tower. You will also see featured businesses on the square including Hey Sugar, Papa Gallo’s Mexican Grill, and Tender Smokehouse BBQ. Celina Independent School District (ISD) joined the fun by allowing the Celina ISD Administration building, Bobcat Field and inside the Celina High School as featured locations. Finally, as the story progresses, Gracebridge volunteered to use its trucks and warehouse to store the growing number of Thanksgiving turkeys.

Celina got involved in the project through Dini’s wife Susan, who is a Hallmark movie fan. She mentioned to her husband how much Celina’s Christmas on the Square event reminded her of a perfect holiday movie. After some research and talking with city officials, it was decided that Celina and its Christmas tree lighting event would be the perfect backdrop for their story. It’s not an easy task to film a movie without interrupting the community’s engagement in one of the city’s biggest annual events. Several planning meetings with the City of Celina and Joe Monaco, Director of Marketing & Communications, and Jill Roza, Strategic Relations Specialist at Celina ISD, created a plan to achieve those specific goals.

The night of filming during Christmas on the Square, the film crew, writers and actors could not have been happier with how it all came together. Dini shares how the people of Celina had shown such great hospitality. "They went about enjoying their event, and we were filming. There was no one jumping around trying to get in the movie, no crazy hand gestures popping up. People were curious, but not in a way that disrupted the filming."

Many local actors and students were involved in the filming of the movie for small roles and extras. Both writers share how friendly, professional, and easy to work with everyone in Celina seems to be. Students from Celina High School Advanced Drama Class, football team and band were used in many of the school scenes. Instead of paying Celina ISD a location fee, Bridge & Acorn Entertainment was able to fund scholarships that were awarded to Celina High School class of 2023 graduating seniors.

Hopefully, this will not be the last movie filmed in and around Celina. Melissa Thomas, Celina’s Director of Marketing and Tourism, shared that the city has fulfilled the Film Friendly Texas certification requirements and is currently in the process of working with the FFTX representatives on announcing Celina’s certification. This certification will allow Celina to be added to the FFTX website and open the door for more location specialists to consider Celina.

The Great Turkey Town Miracle is expected to be released on November 10th.  Christensen shared that they expect to have the movie released to theaters nationwide. You will want to make plans to see this feel-good movie with your family and friends this holiday season.

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