The Making of Sugarhouse

The production was unique in many ways. This is the debut feature film for husband and wife team Frederick Jones and Shirlee Wilson, who wrote, edited and directed “Sugarhouse.” The film was cast locally, led by talented newcomer Alivia Roach, who played the lead role of Maisie. Caleb Ebert, Tess Farrar and Darren DeLoach rounded out the principal cast, and their authentic performances brought life to their characters.

The filmmakers wanted to capitalize on the beauty of the changing seasons in rural Missouri, so they filmed over the course of a year, shooting frequent but short days to take advantage of magic hour light. Locations were chosen for their thematic and cinematic qualities, with production taking place in Missouri, Utah and Arizona. The central location of the sugarhouse was an actual working sugarhouse, where maple syrup is produced on a family farm. The filmmakers were also fortunate to have access to an unoccupied farmhouse, owned by Fred’s brother-in-law and sister, for the entire year. After ridding the house of spiders and predatory wasps, it was turned into a working set. Shirlee found the perfect furniture and props to create a realistic environment for a struggling Midwestern family. Director of photography Adam Miller, a talented and creative addition to the team, made heavy use of windows and practical light sources to achieve the film’s natural look. On the down side, the house was without central air or heat, which made for some miserably hot and cold days. But the small cast and crew became like a family, working through the trials of life while lifting each other up in the process.


A sweet-natured teenager and her headstrong little sister are abandoned by their outlaw father. They reach out for help from their wayward brother who is  haunted by the sins of his past.


Maisie, a sweet-natured teenager, and Cricket, her headstrong little sister, are abandoned at their Midwestern farmhouse by Gage, their outlaw father. Facing the possibility of foster care, which could force the sisters apart, along with the heightened menace of Gage's volatile conspirators, the girls reach out for help from Finn, their wayward older brother.

Haunted by sins of his own, Finn is reluctant to stay, fearing his return will lure him back to a life of crime.  Maisie encourages the good in him, holding the family together through faith and prayer. But as a mysterious medical condition threatens Cricket, and Finn drifts further into darkness, Maisie is pushed to the brink of despair. And when Gage finally returns, Maisie will uncover the unknown truth of her own life, and of the secrets that lie within the family sugarhouse.

Filmed over the course of a year, "Sugarhouse" is a story of the seasons of life, of the struggles and strengths of family. It points to the enduring presence of God, with us through the silence of winter's sorrow, and the singing of springtime's hope.