April 8, 2009 Edition

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Portia girl member of movie cast

Alison Turbyeville of Portia poses for a photo with "The River Within" director Zac Heath during the premiere of the movie at Paragould on Thursday night.

Gretchen Hunt

Alison Turbyeville, a 12-year-old Portia resident, has dreams of some day being an actress. She began fulfilling that dream after reading about open auditions for independent Christian filmmaker Zac Heath last year in The Times Dispatch.

Heath mainly filmed his movie, "The River Within," in his hometown of Paragould, and Turbyeville and other cast and crew members attended a premiere on Thursday night at the Cinema 8 in Paragould.

"It was fun," Turbyeville said of the premiere. "After the movie we went to his parents' house, which was actually featured in the film."

The movie opened Friday night to sold-out crowds, and more than 700 showed up for the Sunday evening screening, according to Heath.

"It was very overwhelming," he said, "but it was a good problem to have."

Turbyeville is one of 27 speaking roles in the film. She portrays a member of the youth group in a small Northeast Arkansas town, to which the main character, Jason, returns home to study for the bar exam.

After returning, Jason begins working with the youth group and what was meant to be a quiet summer becomes a life-changing experience.

Turbyeville said she was pleased to be a part of such a worthwhile film.

"It was very important that it was a Christian film," she said. "It meant a lot because the movie has a good message to it."

In addition to filming in Paragould, several scenes were shot in the Hardy area.

The film, which Heath says is probably equivalent to a PG rating, will show at least through April 16, but could play longer if it continues to draw good attendance.

He said he worked with an excellent cast and crew and was proud to have Turbyeville among those who worked on the movie.

"She did a fantastic job," he said. "That little girl has talent."

Turbyeville is the daughter of Scott and Rhonda Turbyeville of Portia and the granddaughter of Shirley Turbyeville of Walnut Ridge and Eva Verkler of Black Rock.

Tuesday evening, just after watching the movie for the fourth time, Turbyeville's excitement had not worn off.

"I've wanted to be an actress since I was seven," she said. "It was really, really exciting."

She said she hopes to have more opportunities to develop her acting skills and would love to work with Heath again.

"Hopefully if he ever does any movies in the future he'll ask me to be in them."

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