2018-05-03 / Life in Leelanau

SHOWTIME!

Suttons Bay actor makes transition from stage to screen
By Jen Murphy
Of The Enterprise staff


TOTALLY LOCAL. Leelanau County native Luke Klein (right) stars as Ian Fletcher in “Camp Manna.” In the movie, Fletcher (Klein) is shipped off to a backwoods Christian camp, where he is forced to compete in, and survive, a Biblically-themed Olympiad known as God Games. TOTALLY LOCAL. Leelanau County native Luke Klein (right) stars as Ian Fletcher in “Camp Manna.” In the movie, Fletcher (Klein) is shipped off to a backwoods Christian camp, where he is forced to compete in, and survive, a Biblically-themed Olympiad known as God Games. Acting is acting, right?

Well, not exactly.

A soliloquy on stage is quite different than a monologue in a movie.

Suttons Bay resident Luke Klein learned the difference while acting in “Camp Manna,” his first feature film that premiered Tuesday at the State Theatre. But the transition took quite a bit of work.

When Klein first met the directors, he was trying to secure a spot as an “extra” — someone without lines that usually helps to fill the background in a movie scene. But that was just the beginning of the story.

“We held open casting calls at the Elks Lodge in Traverse City the week or two before Manna started principal photography,” said Eric Machila, who wrote and directed the film alongside Eric Scott Johnson. “We weren’t looking for Ian (Klein’s character) because we had already cast another great young actor out of London.


MANNA MOMENT. Former Leland Public School student Luke Klein (center) prepares to participate in God Games with the other campers at Camp Manna. “Camp Manna” was filmed at Camp Arbutus. MANNA MOMENT. Former Leland Public School student Luke Klein (center) prepares to participate in God Games with the other campers at Camp Manna. “Camp Manna” was filmed at Camp Arbutus. “We were looking for smaller roles, people interested in being regular extras, etc., but then Luke and his mom, Kim (Klein), walked in. ... There was something about him and I didn’t want to let him simply leave.”

Two days later, Machila learned the London actor’s visa had been denied.

“We were seven days away from starting principal photography and didn’t have a lead actor,” he said.

Klein returned for a second time, and he walked away with a lead role.

At that point, he knew it was really time to get to work.

“One of the hardest things for me when switching to film was maintaining the right emotional stakes and through-line for the character as you are shooting all of the scenes out of order, typically,” Klein said. “In theatre, you’re running the whole show and you are able to follow the character’s arc a bit easier.”

His mother said theatre acting is big and loud, whereas film acting is “much more subtle.”

Fortunately, he had some help making his first feature film experience successful. Kim Klein said Machila and Johnson personally coached her son.

A job Machila said wasn’t difficult.

“Preparing Luke was easy,” Machila said. “He was 15 when we shot so he had had only theatrical experience. I just had to tone him down a bit, get him less expressive.”

Once he was prepared, one Luke Klein’s parents had to be on set at all times — something that down a bit, get him less expressive.”

Once he was prepared, one Luke Klein’s parents had to be on set at all times — something that earned Machila’s respect.

“The Klein family was amazing,” he said. “Because Luke was underage at the time of production, someone from his family always had to be there for the full day. That’s not a small task. That’s about a month’s worth of time — 12-hour days. So Kim, Michael (his dad) and even his sister, Delaney, made their rounds and showed up to support the production.”

Kim Klein said she enjoyed learning about the filmmaking process and meeting all of the people involved.

“The coolest thing about the movie was learning how many people there were,” she said. “From hairstylists to actors to set designers. It was really great to meet all of them.”

Luke Klein agreed.

“The high point for me was the people I got to work with,” he said. “It is a low-budget feature film, but the directors/writers, the other actors and everyone on set had such a positive attitude. They made me feel so welcome and comfortable on set. They are just the best.”

Until this year, Luke Klein was a student at Leland Public Schools, which Kim Klein said was an intentional decision. She said both she and her husband wanted to keep Luke in public school as long as possible.

As a result, he attended Leland through his junior year of high school and transferred to Interlochen Arts Academy for his senior year.

“It was a hard decision for us, but it has been a great thing for him,” Kim Klein said.

What is Luke Klein working on now?

“He has been getting ready for college,” his mother said.

In the fall, he heads off to the Tar Heel state to attend the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

And his debut film is set to be released for sale online later this month.

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