BY MARY WICOFF
Richie Berner will make his first walk down the red carpet this weekend — looking dashing in a tuxedo and prepped to answer reporters’ questions.
It could be the first of many such appearances for the 18-year-old budding actor.
Berner has a supporting role in the movie, “Jackson’s Run,” which will have its premiere today in Louisville, Ky. Berner and his family will attend the festivities, which began Friday.
His family consists of parents Madalyn and Richard Berner, sister Rachael Berner and maternal grandparents Dr. Miguel and Geraldine Ochoa.
“I know I’m going to be happy about it,” Berner said. “I think this is a masterpiece that the producer, director and actors did. I hope it goes places, and I think it will.”
His mother shares his optimism, saying to her son: “I think you’re going to get calls (for jobs) after this. I have this feeling.”
The film hasn’t been distributed nationally yet.
“Jackson’s Run” is described as a family-friendly, faith-based, coming-of-age story that explores life, death, suffering, and God’s purpose in it.
Berner plays the role of Sam, “the good friend” to Jackson Stone, a reckless and troubled teen who rejects faith and the church as he blames God for everything bad in his life. Jackson has problems at home and at school, gets into drugs and steals cars.
He’s sentenced to community service, where he meets people who will help change his life. He also gets involved in Impact Challenge — a real faith-based program founded by the co-writers to help teens find their way in life.
In fact, Impact Challenge has activities, including a Christian music concert, this weekend in Louisville and New Albany, Ind., and the Berner family plans to get involved. Even though the film hasn’t been distributed yet, the Impact Challenge idea is catching on with churches and youth groups.
Berner filmed his scenes in June 2012 in the southern Indiana and Louisville area, and originally had been considered as the lead character or the drug dealer. However, his clean-cut looks ruled him out for the latter part.
Berner said he has a “medium-size” role in the movie, and has about 20 lines throughout it.
He had several scenes with Rusty Martin Jr., who plays a policeman’s son on the HBO series “Courageous.” The other cast and crew members were wonderful to work with, he said.
“He met so many nice people — a whole family of people he’s in touch with,” Madalyn said.
Berner also had a chance to work behind the camera, such as doing boom work and learning about lighting and angles.
He learned that making a movie is hard work, adding, “It’s a real exhausting process.” Sometimes, he would be up until 3 a.m., waiting for his scenes.
Berner has had parts in local plays, but making a movie is different, he said. An actor has to stay in a certain mood, sometimes for hours, as a scene is shot over and over.
He also said the movie made a big impact on him. “I see things differently,” he said. “I learned that life is precious and very sacred.”
Berner will be a senior this fall at The High School of St. Thomas More in Champaign, where he is an ambassador and is on the national honor roll. He went to Boys State this summer, plays soccer and does volunteer work in the community.
The school has been good about giving Berner time off to go to auditions.
He also does modeling shoots, and recently appeared in a fashion segment on ABC’s “Windy City Life.” In addition, he goes on many auditions, and was in the callback rounds for the movie “Divergence” with Kate Winslett and the TV show “Chicago Fire.”
Even when he doesn’t get a part, the audition is still a valuable experience, which helps build his confidence, he said.
“All of this acting helps him feel comfortable in front of people,” Madalyn said, noting that he gave a speech in front of 500 people at Boys State.
As for his future, he’s considering pre-medicine, political science or acting.
Both Richie and Rachael have agents in Chicago, and are listed on the Internet Movie Database.
Rachael attended her own movie premiere last year. She has the supporting role of Nicki in the movie, “Life Lessons by Maria Finitzo.” She has auditioned for other parts, including in “True Grit.”
A sophomore at Danville High School, she’s busy being a teenager, and went to Hollywood recently with the Show Choir.
Richie said he’s grateful to the performing arts community in Danville, including Red Mask and Danville Light Opera, for preparing him for his acting jobs, and molding him into an actor.
“This town is great for supporting children and their families,” Madalyn said.
If Berner does follow in the footsteps of Danville’s famous sons, such as Dick Van Dyke and Gene Hackman, it won’t go to his head, Madalyn said.
“He’s got his feet on the ground. He’s got good values and he’s kind to people,” she said.