The cast and crew of the film “Betty Anne Waters” — including star Hilary Swank and recent Oscar nominee Melissa Leo — were back in downtown Jackson on Friday, shooting more scenes at the Jackson County Courthouse and Citizen Patriot building.
Also briefly on location was the real-life Betty Anne Waters, a Massachusetts woman who put herself through law school to prove the innocence of her brother. The film is based on her true story.
“She’s been acting as a consultant to us,” unit publicist Amanda Brand said. “She’s been on the set a lot. The actors have a very tight relationship with her.”
Swank plays Waters, while Leo plays a police officer who believes Waters’ brother is guilty. The film also stars Sam Rockwell as the brother and Minnie Driver as a friend who helps with the case.
Set decorators arrived after 11 a.m. to transform the Citizen Patriot’s advertising department into a police station interior, bringing in files, trophies, clocks, flags and more to dress the set. Swank and Leo arrived shortly before 2 p.m.
The movie started shooting Feb. 23 at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Other shooting locations include the closed Southern Michigan Correctional Facility in Blackman Township — where the crew spent much of the last week — Stivers Restaurant near Chelsea, the old Wayne County Building in Detroit and Dexter High School.
“The folks at the prison were so hospitable,” said George Constas of Hamtramck, who scouted the Jackson locations. “Everyone was so accommodating and helpful — everyone in Jackson.”
The movie is part of a recent string of feature film productions that have come to the state because of a tax incentive Michigan enacted last year.
Several Michigan residents working on the film said they have benefited from the legislation. Mike Anderson of Livonia, a Jackson native who has worked in the industry for 20 years, said the increase in feature films came just in time to make up for a decrease in automotive-related filming projects, such as car commercials.
“If it weren’t for the film incentive package, I’d be worried about keeping my house at this point,” said Anderson, an electrician on the film.
Sheila Dershem, a direct marketing sales representative at the Citizen Patriot, was cast as an extra. She said being in the same room with Swank was “heart-stopping.”
“She’s so pretty, and she won an Oscar,” Dershem said. “I mean, come on.”
Dershem, who portrays a police officer, said she was surprised by “how meticulous everything was” on the set.
“I’m just background filler,” she said, but “everything on the desk where we’re at was dated 1993.”
Shooting is scheduled to wrap the first week of April.