Film crew chooses Crystal Lake as setting for 'The UnMiracle'

Actor Daniel Fissmer takes a moment to get into character while filming a scene Sunday for the movie "The UnMiracle" at The Cottage in Crystal Lake.
Actor Daniel Fissmer takes a moment to get into character while filming a scene Sunday for the movie "The UnMiracle" at The Cottage in Crystal Lake.

In many ways, the city of Crystal Lake helped inspire a movie being filmed throughout the city.

Filming this month through mid-November at private homes and businesses, such as The Cottage, filmmakers hope to release “The UnMiracle” in January. With more than half of its cast from the area, It is based on the true story of someone who died of a prescription drug overdose in Crystal Lake.

David Wingate of Crystal Lake is producing the film, having partnered with his childhood friend, Andrew Papke, who is the film’s writer and director. They grew up in Buffalo Grove. 

“All the characters are based on real people we’ve known in our lives,” Papke said. “We’re not trying to portray people, but all the characters and incidents are inspired by events that have actually occurred to Dave [Wingate] or me.” 

Targeting a Christian audience, the film is meant to reflect what it’s like to grow up in a city like Crystal Lake and also perhaps educate about the dangers of prescription drug use, especially by teens.

“That is an epidemic sweeping across the country right now,” Wingate said. 

Although DVDs of the film will be available online through sites such as iTunes, Netflix and the film’s website, it likely will be shown only at churches as opposed to in theaters.

The hope is any money the churches raise from showing the film can be donated to causes and topics related to the film, such as drug awareness and veteran programs, Papke said.

“We are not doing this for the money,” he said. “We found out very early if we did this for the money, the whole project would be tainted and false.”

Filmmakers sought to tell a story not often told in Hollywood that reflects what it’s like to grow up in the Midwest. 

Because of this and the beauty of Crystal Lake, the city was an ideal setting, Papke said.

“We wanted to portray what we knew. You write what you know and portray what you know,” he said. “What we know is growing up in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago and living in a community just like Crystal Lake. ... 

“We feel like this is a voice long ignored in Hollywood movies, our own voice, which is that of suburbanites.” 

Forming Auslynn Films (, the filmmakers cast from open auditions and casting calls at area high schools, but also drew upon numerous local people to work as extras, mainly on a volunteer basis. 

Amy Lyndon, who has appeared in more than 40 feature films and more than 30 television shows, such as “Law and Order: Los Angeles,” “Eagleheart,” “NCIS,” “Ugly Betty” and others, stars as the lead character, Karen Stevenson. 

The film tells a series of interweaving stories dealing with how the town reacts when the most popular girl in school dies from an accidental overdose on prescription drugs, Papke said. 

The story follows those who gave her the drugs, those who didn’t use them, the police officer called to the scene, the soldier with post-traumatic stress syndrome whom the drugs were taken from, her mother and other characters.

“It’s kind of this cause and effect circle dealing with this one inciting tragedy,” Papke said.

The film’s characters are described as decent, ordinary, hardworking suburban Christians. And the goal was not to be dogmatic or preachy, Papke said. 

“Through all these tragic events, it’s faith not only in God but in other people that allows us to overcome our loss and the challenges of life,” he said. “It’s not necessarily that people have these religious epiphanies, but rather they see through people helping other people that is how we experience grace.

“That’s the theme of the story.”

For information on “The UnMiracle,” an Auslynn Films production being filmed in Crystal Lake, visit

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