Christy Carlson Romano's movie spotlights some Milford people and places

When Milford native Christy Carlson Romano, aka Christy Romano Rooney, showed up in Milford to shoot scenes for her directorial debut movie, Christmas All Over Again, earlier this year, it wasn’t just the downtown green that got a place in the spotlight. Some local businesses and a Milford home will get some exposure when the movie hits the screen, and more than just a couple of Milford residents will be on the big screen, too, if they make the cut.

First stop on the Milford movie-making tour is the home of Rich Conine, owner of Stonebridge Restaurant in downtown Milford. Conine, longtime friend of the Romano family, turned over his 5,100-square-foot house at 7 Stone Manor — which, by the way, is on the market for $1.395 million — for a little more than a week so Romano could shoot a wedding and other scenes in various parts of the spacious house.

Conine said about 75 actors, staff, camera people, makeup artists, etc., etc., filled the house for the eight days, using the living room, dining room and foyer, and front stairs for various and predominant scenes. “They used a lot of things in the house,” he said, noting that many of the holiday decorations used as props were his, and when viewers see family photos on the walls in the background when the movie comes out, those will be Conine’s family photos.

“Fifty percent of the movie is here,” Conine estimated, adding that “it was an interesting experience.”

Romano and her team of actors and others spent 18 days in Milford in March. Conine also lent office space above the Stonebridge Restaurant to the cast and crew to use as a sort of headquarters, which came in especially handy when filming was taking place downtown. The downtown green served as the set March 16, and snow — brought over from the Milford Ice Pavilion — helped turn the green into a makeshift winter wonderland.

The tiny building on Broad Street, which houses Affordable Cremations, was used as the outside scene of a “magical shoe store,” Tony Romano, Christy’s father, explained. And then, for shots inside, the team traveled to the Connecticut Post Mall, where they used EbLens, a store that Christy Carlson Romano walked by and thought would make the perfect interior.

Milford residents who watch the movie may notice some other familiar locations, like The Corner Restaurant on River Street, which was featured last year on  the Cooking Channel show “Road Trip.”

Michelle Lebel, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Amer, said the Milford-born actress and her husband, Brendan Rooney, are customers of hers at the breakfast/brunch/lunch hot spot, stopping in when they’re not on the West Coast. They shot scenes inside the quaint eatery two days, and then another to finish up. “One night they were here until four in the morning,” Lebel said, adding that the crew got a chance to sample some of downtown while they were in the neighborhood, including cupcakes from Cupcasions next door — 2013 winner of the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars.

The Lebel’s daughter is a big fan of Ryan Fox, who plays Jasper Dunlop on the Nickelodeon series Henry Danger and is featured in Christmas All Over Again. The young fan was thrilled to meet the actor at her parents’ restaurant, Michelle said.

Patrick Cleary, his wife, Lori, and his sons also landed parts in the movie. Patrick Cleary, a Fairfield University police officer, is also a friend of the Romano family and was happy to oblige when the movie makers needed a police officer for a scene. Moviegoers can expect to see him in a scene staged behind the mall, uttering the line, “Well it looks like this Christmas you guys will be spending it in the clink — ho, ho, ho.”

Sons Brayden, 6, who goes to Matthewson School, Gavin, 11, who goes to Harborside, and Patrick Jr., 14, a student at Fairfield Prep, landed some on-screen time, too, and got to mingle with people they might have gotten a chance to see only on television.

Patrick Jr. said the acting was nerve-wracking at first because the others were professionals. But he and his brothers enjoyed their parts, and Brayden, the youngest, said he may want to pursue acting one day.

Residents can also keep their eyes open for GG's Wood Fired Pizza, George Pastorok Sr. and George Pastorok Jr. And, Rich Conine makes a brief appearance, and Christy's dog, Brando, is the canine star.

Tony Romano said Milford really came together for his daughter and the making of Christmas All Over Again, and he said it’s great to get that kind of support from one’s hometown. From the mayor to the business owners to the residents, everyone was great, Romano said.

David Gere worked with Christy Carlson Romano on a movie called House Rules, which was filmed in Gere’s hometown, Cromwell. Gere played a major role in connecting Romano with Christmas All Over Again and its producer, Switzer Entertainment Group, which is working with Safier Entertainment and Dawn’s Light, according to IMDb.

Gere said Romano fulfilled a dream when she took the story that would become Christmas All Over Again, rewrote it, and then turned the cameras on in her hometown.

Noting the tremendous amount of work that goes into directing and starring in a film, Gere said, with a look of respect for the actress/director he was describing, “It’s a girl power thing.”
About the movie
According to IMDb, the movie is set to be released by the end of the year. The screenplay was written by George Saunders and Jake Barnes, and it’s described as a comedy/family movie, in which “a mischievous, swag-obsessed boy must overcome his inner Scrooge, or remain caught in a cycle where every day is a Christmas without presents.”

The cast includes Christy Carlson Romano, Armani Jackson and Amber Montana, plus Sean Ryan Fox, Gabriel Rush, Todrick Hall, Massimo Dobrovic, Tom DeNucci, Joanna Koss, George Saunders, Chelsea Vale, Christopher Gray, and Collin Smith.

Romano made headlines throughout her teen years with her fame in Disney Channel shows, including Even Stevens and as the voice of Kim Possible, and later acting in movies, and on Broadway as Belle in Beauty and the Beast.

She’s also been in Cadet Kelly, Campus Confidential, Taking Five, The Cutting Edge 2: Going for the Gold, and The Cutting Edge 3: Chasing the Dream. Various other TV appearances include MTV’s Kaya, NBC’S Joan of Arcadia, CW’s Summerland, and TNT’s Hawthorne. At age 12, she made her feature film debut in Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You.

And the list goes on.

She recently won an award at the Gasparilla International Film Festival in Tampa, Fla., for her performance in the romantic comedy Bear With Us.

As Christmas All Over Again is her directorial debut, Jarrett Furst, line producer for the film, said, she wanted to shoot some of the scenes in her hometown — Milford.