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Lights, camera, action for Tigard filmmaker

Mary Knights work premieres Saturday at The Joy Cinema


'Sister Marys Angel,' is a dramatic comedy about two sisters, a nun and a lingerie model who switch places. The film will have its world premiere Saturday in Tigard.
Tigard resident Mary Knight has spent more than a decade with a story in her head.

She’s sharing it this weekend with the world.

The Tigard filmmaker will present her first feature-length film “Sister Mary's Angel,” on Saturday. The film will have its world premiere at The Joy Cinema on Pacific Highway at 5 p.m.

“Sister Mary’s Angel” tells the story of estranged twin sisters, a Catholic nun and a lingerie model, who swap places after one comes down with breast cancer and requires urgent medical treatment.

“They see each other’s lives,” Knight said. “They were both hiding out in their own ways. But by switching places, they experience life differently and get what they need from being somewhere else.”

Catch the show

The movie: “Sister Mary’s Angel” world premiere

What’s it about: A dramatic comedy about a lingerie model who trades places with her identical twin sister, a Catholic nun, in order to receive medical treatment.

Rated: PG-13

Where: The Joy Cinema, 11959 S.W. Pacific Highway

When: 5 p.m. on Saturday

How much: Tickets are $4

Want more info: sistermarysangel.com

The story first came to Knight 15 years ago, when she was working as a social worker. And it hasn’t gone away.

“It started as a drama, but the situation has so much humor to it,” she said.

The story was something Knight felt compelled to tell, she said. She was never much of a writer growing up, but loved the idea so much that she wrote the story into a screenplay and shopped it around to filmmakers. When no one took on the project, she decided to make the film herself.

She took film classes at the Northwest Film Center to learn how to tell her story.

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Mary Knight self financed her movie Sister Marys Angel, about two sisters, one who is a nun and the other a lingerie model.“I didn’t set out to be a filmmaker,” Knight said. “It was that I needed this story to be told, and the only way to do that was to make the film.”

Knight served as a writer, director and producer of the project, hiring most of the cast and crew through Craigslist. The film’s stars, sisters Kris and Alix Angelis, are professional actors who were living on opposite sides of the country when filming began.

Filming began in May 2010, using locations in Tigard, Sherwood, Canby, Oregon City and Portland. It has taken Knight the past four years to finish the film, working with three different editors to perfect her project.

About a third of the film was shot in her husband’s business, Northwest Forestry Services on Greenburg Road.

Her husband Jerry Witler’s office was transformed into the lingerie model’s apartment, complete with a king-sized bed.

“They had to work around us,” Knight said, laughing. “The UPS man walked in and said, ‘Oh, I’m in the wrong place.’”

The film cost Knight about $50,000 to make, small by Hollywood standards, but huge when you consider Knight and her husband funded the project.

“We put a lot into this,” she said. “And so did so many others. I couldn’t have made it that cheap without all the people who volunteered their time.”

This isn’t the first film to have its world premiere at The Joy. In September, Portland filmmaker Justin Hawkins’ independent horror film “The Devil Knows His Own” had its big day on the theater's screen.

Comedy, with weight

A social worker for more than 20 years, Knight has made short films about domestic violence and verbal abuse, but “Sister Mary’s Angel” is her first feature film.

The dramatic comedy is rated PG-13 for mature thematic material and some sexual content.

The film does share some elements with her past work. The sisters took different roads after a traumatic childhood involving abuse, but the film is really a comedy about sisters, Knight said.

“It is comedic but also has some weight to it,” Knight said. “It deals with serious topics, but in a way that is fun to watch.”

“To me, this is about the main characters healing,” she added. “It’s about them coming into their own good place with themselves and with each other.”

Knight retired from social work after shooting wrapped on the film, dedicating herself fulltime to filmmaking.

She said the film has some thematic parallels with her own life.

“The movie is about doing what you really want to do in life,” Knight said. “They were hiding out from life in their own ways. They want to live life to their fullest, which is what I am doing now with my life.”