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Eleven-year-old Longmeadow resident to be featured in holiday film

Date: 12/4/2014

LONGMEADOW –  Eleven-year-old resident Sontino Allentuck was able to experience what it was like to be in a fifth grade class room in 1964 during his summer vacation as a classmate extra in “Wishin’ and Hopin',’” a holiday film scheduled to make its television debut on Lifetime Network Dec. 6 at 8 p.m.

The film is based upon the New York Times best-selling novel of the same name by internationally renowned author Wally Lamb, which  tells a humorous and heart warming tale of a 1964 fifth grade classroom at St. Aloysius Gonzaga Parochial School in Connecticut, where the main character, Felix Funicello, played by Wyatt Ralff as a child and Chevy Chase as an adult, navigates coming of age lessons. 

According to the Internet Movie Database, “Wishin’ and Hopin’” is set in the small town of Three Rivers, CT, and also features actress Molly Ringwald as a major character, substitute teacher Madame Frechette, and rock star and actor Meat Loaf as Monsignor Muldoon.

“[I really enjoyed] seeing the movie come together piece by piece,” Allentuck, who is a third cousin to Wally Lamb, said.

Although Allentuck has no spoken lines, his character was featured prominently in scenes throughout the film, he explained. One scene focused on his character being late for class and running into the school.

“It was kind of like surreal,” Allentuck, a sixth grader at Williams Middle School, said. “I was in this big motion picture movie and there were all these stars in it.”

During one of the first scene shoots, actress and former Saturday Night Live cast member Cheri Oteri, who plays Sister Dymphna in the film, helped her younger castmates get ready for filming by playing an acting warm-up game, he added.

Allentuck said the game involved a group of people telling a story, however the story could only be told one word at a time by each person. As one person would say a word the next person in the circle would add his or her own.

Wishin’ and Hopin’ debuted theatrically at the Garde Arts Theater in New London, CT, on Nov. 23 to three sold out shows and received positive reviews, Sontino’s mother, Gianna Allentuck, said.

“It was really kind of interesting that all these kids kind of became friends,” Sontino’s father Lee Allentuck said. “Even though there were was a couple stars, they were all good friends and seeing them last weekend kind of meeting up again, it was really neat to see the reunion and they all still very much care for each other.”

Lee Allentuck said Sontino was on set during the course of three and a half weeks from mid-July to August and cast members were often on set for 10 to 11 hours per day.

“Most of the time it was mostly just focused on three scenes [during the day] but different shots of them,” Sontino Allentuck said. “Most of the time if we weren’t needed in the scene we would just go into another room where they had all the other kids that weren’t needed [on set].”

Sontino said one interesting element of seeing the film was the use of adding CGI breath for when actors were in scenes outside. The cast also had to wear winter clothing throughout the movie in 90-degree weather.

Cecelia Allentuck, Sontino’s 8-year-old sister, was also featured as an extra during a pageant scene in the film.

The film was also shot on-location at Norwich Free Academy in Norwich, CT, where Lamb went to school, Gianna Allentuck said. Scenes featured meticulously detailed 1960s props and set dressings

“It was kind of like Alice in Wonderland,” Sontino explained. “You were in the modern world and then you were in the 1960s the next.”

Sontino said he was also a stand-in for Ralff because he was close in size to the leading actor. Lighting and camera positions were arranged for Ralff before scenes began.

Also, Sontino noted that he would like to continue acting and hopes to be enrolled at The Drama Studio in Springfield this January.