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Alamo writer/producer films movie locally; daughter stars

"Gibby," written by Greg Lyon and starring his daughter, set for spring release

"Take one."

The teenage girl bounded up the stairs, a book about monkeys in the crook of her arm.

"Hey, Dad," she said in passing to the 40-something guy on his way down.

At the bottom of the stairs, he turned to gaze after her quizzically, holding the expression a long time.

"Cut!" called out director Phil Gorn.

After some discussion, an assistant sprayed something on the knobby newel post at the foot of the stairs, and take two began.

The staircase scene was shot -- again and again -- last week on the set of "Gibby," a PG-13 family movie being filmed at the big yellow house on Second Street at Angela in Pleasanton. It's the home of the Aimar family, Theresa and Dave, and their three sons, J.D., Adam and Noah.

"The attraction was the quaint and much sought after charm of Pleasanton," Theresa Aimar said. "It just can't be found in many places."

The house was built in 1907 then remodeled in the 1990s by the Aimars, who more than doubled the square footage but kept its Victorian charm. The family was planning to sell the home when, during an open house in April, movie producers Greg Lyon and Kyle Kernan left a card with their Realtor and explained they would like to use it for a movie.

The Aimars didn't pay attention at first but the producers were persistent so finally Theresa called them back. Their credentials checked out, and the crew from Half Moon Films took over the house in June.

One of the first things they did was repaint one of the boys' bedrooms pink for the teenage girl. The finished basement served for wardrobe, makeup and a cool place for the teen stars to play cards and video games. On the front lawn, tables held snacks and drinks, and cast members relaxed in lawn chairs.

"Pleasantonians are noticing sightings of movie stars and flocking to see what's going on," Aimar said.

The family stayed in a hotel for eight days in July.

"Our living quarters were the 'hot set' during that time," Aimar said. "Nothing could have moved, not even an inch, such as the TV hand-control, as the next shoot needed to look exactly the same as the day before."

The plot revolves around a young teenage girl, Katie, stuck in a depression when she loses her mother. That all changes when her science teacher, who lives across the street, goes on vacation and asks Katie to take care of her little monkey, Gibby.

Gibby revitalizes Katie, also helping her get back into gymnastics and renewing her friendships. This includes finding a potential boyfriend and dealing with a mean girl who wants to beat Katie at everything.

Katie is played by 14-year-old actress Shelby Lyon, the dad by Sean Patrick Flanery ("The Boondock Saints" and "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles"), and the teacher by Shannon Elizabeth ("American Pie"). Peyton Meyer is Tommy, and other friends are played by Sabina Bacino, Ysa Penarego and Eryn Nicole Pablico.

But the real star on Second Street was Crystal, a capuchin monkey who has been in 24 movies, including playing a drug-dealing monkey in "The Hangover Part II."

"This is her first starring role," said Tom Gunderson, her trainer at Birds & Animals Unlimited. "She has been in two-dozen feature films and 40 TV shows, here and overseas."

Gunderson was endlessly patient as Crystal, clad in backwards Newborn 2-size diapers, nimbly hopped onto the shoulders of visitors. Gunderson used hand signals to elicit a smile and kisses for photos.

"I've had her for 18 years, I got her when she was 2 1/2 years old, and they live 40 to 50 years in captivity," he said. "I'm 45, so we will retire together."

"We found one restaurant downtown last week that let Crystal sit outside," co-producer Greg Lyon said. "Animals are a bit problematic."

Lyon, who lives in Alamo, also wrote the script. He began the process about four years ago after seeing a father and daughter and their gibbon when he was picking up his son from a summer camp at Stanford University.

"When we write, we draw on our experiences," Lyon said.

Although he considers himself a storyteller more than a writer, this is his third movie -- the other two being "Sux2BMe," released in 2012, and "Pas a Vendre," which he filmed in Paris last year. They likewise feature Shelby Lyon, who is his daughter.

Filming for "Gibby" was also done at Alhambra High School in Martinez, Diablo Gymnastics in San Ramon, and at Goal Line Productions in Pleasanton. The house across Second Street from the Aimars' has a role when Tommy flies a drone into the window.

Now the work continues at Universal Studios.

"We will do the editing at Universal," explained director Phil Gorn, who lives in San Francisco but stayed locally during the filming.

"I shoot all over. I just shot in Italy, 'Richard the Lionheart, Part II,'" Gorn said.

"Gibby" is scheduled for release in the spring when school gets out.

"If you can make a fun movie with the holidays or an animal, it will do quite well," Greg Lyon said. "Tying this to the end of school, we will have a holiday and an animal."

The Aimars will wait until the end of the school year to put their house back on the market, Theresa said, since twin sons Adam and Noah will then graduate from Foothill High.

Meanwhile Noah, who plans to major in film in college, is getting hands-on experience, and the whole family enjoyed the process. Plus the beloved Victorian home and neighborhood where the boys grew up is preserved on film for the family to enjoy at any time.

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