ONALASKA, Wis. (WKBT) -

On Thursday night, the public was invited to Onalaska High School to attend the premiere of the locally produced movie, “Pause.”

The movie, which was produced by the Onalaska Hilltopper Rotary Club’s “The Pause Project,” highlights the dangers of drinking and driving.

“This movie is going to save lives,” said Onalaska Police Officer Jim Page, who was shown in the movie in a role that mirrors what he does as an officer on the scene of a car crash involving a drunk driver.

The movie follows star high school hockey player Alex (Julian Grosskopf) and three of his friends. A scout comes to watch Alex play and tells him he’s interested in Alex playing for his college team. Alex later meets his friend Cam (Asher Carlson) before a school dance where they’re shown mixing beer with hard liquor in a house basement. They then go pick up their friends and dates for the dance, Hannah (Maggie Solberg) and Kaitlyn (Shelby Cronell).  At the dance, the boys drink some more alcohol before the four of them decide to leave the dance early. Clearly impaired, Alex drives a car and hits a tree in Rowe Park in Onalaska, injuring everyone in the vehicle.  

After the screening, there was a question and answer segment with the cast and crew of the movie. SPOILER ALERT

Where did the idea for the movie come from?

The idea for the movie came about five years ago from Onalaska Fire Lieutenant Corey Yonkovich and Bill Kult, a member of the Onalaska Fire Department. Lt. Yonkovich said they’ve been holding mock drunk driving crashes as part of an all-school assembly at Onalaska High School for several years, but they could only show Onalaska first responders arriving. He and Kult wanted to be able to show what happens after the victims are placed in the ambulance to show the collaboration among emergency responders in the La Crosse area and to show teenagers that the decisions they make affect more than just them.

Who was involved in the making of the movie?

The Pause Project is a partnership among the Onalaska Hilltopper Rotary Club, the Rotary International Foundation, the La Crosse Rotary Works Foundation, Onalaska Fire and Police Departments, and Gundersen Health System, Tri-State Ambulance, MedLink AIR, Soundframe Studios, EKPstudios, and Skyframe Aerial. Former News 8 account executive Kelly Jo Brick wrote the script for the movie. News 8 is a proud sponsor of the project.

How long did it take to make “Pause”?

Filming began in the fall of 2013. Rowe Park in Onalaska was closed from 6 p.m. – 10 p.m. on Tuesday, October 15 so crews could film the crash and emergency responders’ scenes. The night before, the crew took the car to the La Crosse Speedway and used a push truck to create the indent on the car to simulate it crashed into a tree. The crew shot 45 hours of footage for a 45 minute movie.  Director and editor Steve Londre and special effects supervisor Travis Kobs spent about a month editing the movie.

What parts of the movie involved special effects?

Kobs said he’s proud that most of the special effects are seamlessly integrated into the movie. Some of the MedLink AIR transition scenes were created by the computer. The coffin that Hannah is shown in near the end of the movie is not real. Maggie Solberg did not have to crawl into a coffin for this scene. Also, the fictional News 8 breaking news clip that was shown in the hospital room was digitally camera tracked into the TV.

Why is the movie about 45 minutes long?

“Pause” director Steve Londre said the goal was to make the movie 45 minutes or less so it can be shown in high schools and leave time for discussion. The goal is to teach teenagers to “Pause for a moment…save a life.”

How did being involved in the movie impact the teenage actors?

Maggie Solberg, a junior at West Salem High School plays the role of Hannah, the teenager who died due to the injuries sustained from the crash. Her character was not wearing her seatbelt and her head smacked the windshield when the car hit the tree. “All of my friends who saw the movie were crying—not only because I died—because it was so emotional,” Maggie said. She hopes the movie makes teenagers realize the decisions they make impact more than just one person.

Julian Grosskopf, a senior at West Salem High School, plays the role of Alex, the teen who gets arrested for drunk driving. As part of the filming, he was handcuffed and taken through the process of being booked into the La Crosse County Jail. “I definitely don’t want to go back,” Julian said.

Shelby Cornell, a senior at West Salem High School, plays the role of Kaitlyn, who is injured in the crash. Shelby says she hopes the movie makes teenagers realize that the actions that they take and the decisions that they make affect the people around them—their parents, friends, family.

Asher Carlson, a senior at West Salem High School, plays the role of Cam, Alex’s drinking buddy. He said when they were filming the scene in the wrecked car, he felt like his upper body went numb not because he was physically injured, but because the whole situation was overwhelming. He felt like he was in the moment, living what it was like to be involved in a real crash as dramatic as the one depicted in the movie.

How much did it cost to make the movie?

With in-kind donations, it cost about $100,000 to make the movie, according to Scott Davies, co-creator of The Pause Project and executive producer of the movie.

What’s next for the movie and The Pause Project?

The producers of the movie are working on its distribution. Scott Davies said they hope to take the movie’s message nationally and they’ve gotten some interest from several organizations, like schools, and insurance companies to make this movie part of a curriculum. The Pause Project is also working on complimentary materials to go with the movie—fact sheets and documents that can help people who want to show the movie.

For more information on The Pause Project, check its website at www.the-pause-project.com.