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Family-friendly adventure

Bill Muir's interest in writing and directing movies started, in part, from watching a mother and her children look for a kid-friendly film at a movie theater.

After looking over the marquee, the family gave up and walked back to their car. Muir, a resident of Williams, decided he wanted to make films they would have attended — "a really kid-friendly, family-friendly, redemptive movie," said Muir, 60.

With his children's adventure story, called "The Lost Medallion," Muir thinks he's succeeded.

The movie will open in 150 theaters across the U.S. on March 15, including Tinseltown in Medford. Depending on how ticket sales go, that number could grow. Theaters in Latin America also have picked it up.

"I feel very fortunate," Muir said. "I am more than a lucky guy."

The film opens on character Daniel Anderson, played by Alex Kendrick, who is on an errand to drop a donation off at a youth foster home. Residents of the foster home corner him and ask him to tell them a story, because their usual storyteller has not shown up.

Anderson obliges and tells an impromptu tale about 13-year-old Billy Stone.

Billy and his friend Allie are on the hunt for a magic medallion, and a sinister character named Cobra is on the prowl for the artifact, too.

"This one's kind of an 'Indiana Jones' meets 'The Goonies,' " Muir said.

It's primarily an action movie, he added, with Christian undertones.

Muir, who has worked with Youth For Christ for 30 years, said the decision to start the film in a foster home came from knowing youths who felt unimportant. He also has been a foster parent.

"We wanted to make an action-adventure, entertaining movie that introduced kids to the topic of significance and the place that God plays in that," Muir said.

After writing the screenplay in 2008, John Duke, owner of Superior Athletic Clubs and Million Air, signed on as executive producer and helped finance the film.

"It's something that we've wanted to do and something that is needed out there," Duke said.

Cast and crew, numbering about 200 people, traveled to Thailand to shoot the film in 2009. A typical day consisted of filming about two pages of script, and they shot at some exotic locales, including towering jungles and pristine beaches.

"They were very good to work with," Duke said of the crew. "It was really like a big family gathering. It turned out better than I could have hoped."

Muir, a veteran of short films, said he learned that shooting a feature-length film is a different animal. He had to deal with nailing complicated shots and sometimes unpredictable weather. Working with child actors also was a challenge, because the hours they can work on set each day are limited. The actors also did many of their own stunts during action sequences.

"Every day had its own problems, and each day was unique," Muir said. "You realize how many things are fighting you and how many things can go wrong, as opposed to how many things can go right."

The experience gave Muir a deeper appreciation for filmmakers who have been making movies for years.

"I go to the movies now, and the fact that they're on the big screen, I applaud at the end," Muir said.

When his crew completed filming, Muir worked on editing the movie through 2011. Then he started to market it.

"It's done very well in all the testing," he said.

Muir says he plans to make more films. He has written several other screenplays, some geared toward children, and they span a variety of genres, including adventure, mystery and drama.

"We're planning on doing more movies over the coming years," he said. "The plan is to produce some movies in the valley."

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com.

The sinister Cobra (Mark Dacascos), left, and Billy (Billy Unger) are searching for the same treasure: a magic medallion. - thelostmedallion.com