A homegrown, Woodstock-based family movie will premiere in theaters Friday, Dec. 1, but “Thrill Ride” is so much more than a local film making it to the big screen.
The story, inspired by 10-year-old Mason Parrish who lost his battle with cancer in 2011, honors his memory and supports research to fight diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, the rare, pediatric brain cancer that took his life.
“Thrill Ride,” an award-winning independent family adventure movie, will open theatrically Friday, Dec. 1, at Classic Cinemas theaters in Woodstock, Elk Grove Village and Naperville, running for one week. The Woodstock location will host a sneak preview at 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 30, with specials guests and a question- and-answer session hosted by writer/director Chris Parrish.
Years earlier, Mason came up with the idea for “Thrill Ride” and shared it with his father, Chris Parrish, a screenwriter. A boy finds a set of blueprints leading him to Al Capone’s lost fortune, hidden in Happyland Amusement Park. The boy and his friends encounter an incredible adventure when they sneak into the abandoned park and witness its attractions magically come to life.
“Mason’s dream was to have his own movie company where kids were heroes and stars. We’re continuing that tradition,” said Chris Parrish.
In 2010, the Parrish family moved from Los Angeles to Woodstock. Shortly after, Mason grew ill and was eventually diagnosed with DIPG. Mason lost his battle in the summer of 2011 at age 10.
“We wanted to honor Mason and his memory and raise money [to fund research to cure DIPG],” said Mason’s mom, Ilisa Parrish. “It took us a long time to figure out how to do both.”
The idea of turning Mason’s story into a movie was hatched and fundraising began. In December 2013, the first few scenes were shot in Woodstock and production resumed in Chicago in November 2014 when Chicago-area philanthropist Vincent W. Foglia came on board as the executive producer.
Proceeds from the film will go toward The Mason Parrish Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable corporation with the goal of supporting DIPG research and providing handicapped-equipped vans for families who face the devastating diagnosis. A portion also will be earmarked for continuing to make Mason’s movies.
“My gosh, we are so thrilled that after three plus years, Mason’s movie is done and hitting both the big and little screen,” said Chris Parrish. “We’re so proud of him and everyone that worked on it.”
“I think he would be so amazed and happy,” said Ilisa Parrish. “He loved sharing stories with everyone. For him to have the opportunity to [have his story] be seen … he’d be so happy.”
The family spent a good deal of the past year taking “Thrill Ride” around the country to various film festivals. Ilisa Parrish found the experience very moving when people shared their own experiences and cancer stories with the family after viewing the movie.
“It’s amazing that we can touch so many people,” she said.
A common comment from viewers, Chris Parrish said, was how the story was something only a child could come up with. He said he used jokes that his son insisted be in the movie. While it was wonderful to see family and friends enjoy the movie, he said to see and hear others laugh and cheer made him and Ilisa incredibly proud.
“It makes it more meaningful that we are not just sharing [Mason’s] talent, but helping fund research. We are trying – with other parents – to do our part to raise money and cure this disease,” said Chris Parrish. “You don’t want your child to be forgotten. [Mason] was so much more than this cancer.”
The Parrish family is excited the momentum begun by the theatrical release will continue Dec. 12 when the movie is released on iTunes and Amazon video-on-demand. Pre-orders are being taken now.
“Kids and families around the country can enjoy the film,” said Chris Parrish.