Film about mystical land of Cadia has ties to Grove City, Bexley

Eric Lagatta
elagatta@dispatch.com
Triplets Keegan, Tanner and Carly Sells sit Sept. 14 at their residence in Grove City. The 17-year-old actors, who are seniors at Teays Valley High School, star in a new feature film, "Cadia: The World Within," about three siblings who find a magic rock that transports them to a mystical land.

To pass the time while backstage in a regional production of "The Addams Family," Cedric Gegel and his fellow actors -- triplets Tanner, Carly and Keegan Sells -- would dream up fantastical tales.

Together, the young thespians would be transported away from the Little Theatre Off Broadway in Grove City to magical lands filled with mystery and wonder. During one of those storytelling sessions in 2015, Gegel came up with an idea so good the triplets insisted he write it down.

That was the spark Gegel needed to create his fantasy epic, "Cadia: The World Within," which was released Sept. 15 on Amazon and Vudu.

The Grove City triplets, 17-year-old seniors at Teays Valley High School, star in the film, which also features actor Corbin Bernsen, as three teenage siblings mourning the loss of their mother. The children -- Matthew, David and Renee Addams -- find a magic rock that transports them to a mystical land called Cadia, where they must contend with magical forces to find their way back home.

Though the Sells siblings have been acting in regional productions since they were in second grade, this represents the first feature film all three have starred in together. Because of the bonds formed while performing in "The Addams Family," Gegel, 26, wrote the lead roles specifically for the triplets when they were 12 years old.

"I wanted it to be something that was good and honored their talent, and it just kept getting bigger," said Gegel, who was living in Columbus' University District at the time of production but since has moved to Philadelphia. "Their characters in the film kind of got to grow up with them -- the characters became true to who they are."

Gegel, a Capital University graduate, wrote and refined the script for nearly three years before seeking to bring it to life as an independent venture filmed under the banner of Just a Skosh Productions, which he helped found in 2017. Following casting, filming took place over the course of 13 days in the summer of 2018.

Carly Sells remembers arriving on set July 5, the day after returning from a family vacation, overcome with nerves. Not only would it be her first feature film, but she would be working with veteran actors.

James Phelps, who portrayed Fred Weasley in the "Harry Potter" films, stars as Tanion, a character whom the teenagers meet in Cadia, while Bernsen ("L.A. Law," "Psych") plays the children's grandfather.

Keegan Sells, a fan of the "Harry Potter" movies, recalls meeting Phelps while getting breakfast.

Though starstruck, he said, relaxed when he found Phelps to be down-to-earth.

"He was just so genuine with everything he said," Keegan Sells said.

"He was an all-around great guy."

Local audiences will recognize many locations in "Cadia," as filming took place at Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks sites, downtown Columbus, Mees Hall at Capital University in Bexley and Marmon Valley Farm in Logan County.

Though the film's budget was below the $300,000 threshold for the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit, Film Columbus assisted the production team to identify film locations in central Ohio, said John Daugherty, executive director of the film commission.

"We felt it was important to help local filmmakers as much as possible," Daugherty said. "It sets them up for success on their next feature, which I'm sure will be bigger, and they'll probably want to make it right here in Columbus."

Many scenes were filmed at the Sells siblings' Grove City residence, and other family members appear in "Cadia" as extras.

The triplets' mother, Angie Sells, spent time on set and was impressed by the way her children handled the pressure.

"I was just amazed at how natural they were and to see it come to life," said Angie Sells, a second-grade teacher.

A cut of "Cadia" was completed by January 2019 in time for regional sold-out summer premieres last year at the Gateway Film Center; Capital University; a theater in Gegel's hometown of Wapakoneta; and a theater in Oxford, Michigan, the hometown of producer Zach Throne.

Before their film debut, the triplets appeared in roughly 30 regional productions across central Ohio and worked with Columbus Children's Theatre.

Now that "Cadia" is behind them, all three siblings hope to continue working in entertainment, whether on stage, in front of the camera or behind the scenes.

"It's such a unique experience to get to do something like that, especially at our age," Keegan Sells said. "It was a super fun summer."

elagatta@dispatch.com

@EricLagatta