Manatee’s Southeastern Guide Dogs have starring role in new movie

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Legendary actor Burt Reynolds is making a new movie in Manatee County but the real stars may turn out to be of the four-legged variety.

Filming is set to begin this week in Palmetto and Bradenton on "And Then There Was Light," a story about a young girl who loses her eyesight and will feature Southeastern Guide Dogs. describes the film like this: A young girl struggles after a traumatic horse riding accident causes her to lose her eyesight. Charles, the head trainer of Southeastern Guide Dogs, trains Apple, a miniature horse, to be her companion and surrogate eyes.

Locals impacted by the agency realize the importance of the trained animals and are excited about the project.

"With Carson, I’m free," said Suzy Wilburn, Director of Admissions and Graduate Services of Southeastern Guide Dogs of her canine companion Carson. "I’m free to be anything I want to be and go anywhere I want to go, and do anything I want to."

Now, Wilburn and others who work with and benefit from the services at Southeastern are happy the public will learn about the agency and the animals.

"We are so excited to have them chose to come film here on our campus in Palmetto," Wilburn said. "It’s going to give us some exposure to an audience that may not know anything about us. We want to tell them about our extraordinary guide dogs and the inspiring people that we serve here."

The film, which also will star Amy Smart and Jack Griffo, is being written and directed by 24-year-old Castille Landon.

"It’s a fictionalized account of a young girl, who has a horseback riding accident, and she starts going blind, and she is taken to southeastern guide dogs," said Landon, who grew up in Manatee County. "And because she’s an equestrian she doesn’t bond with the dogs, so the trainer there, who is played by Burt Reynolds, trains her a little guide pony."

While most of the movie will feature actors from Hollywood, there are a few locals starring in the film. Four dogs that are training to become potential guide dogs have been selected for roles in the movie.

Wilburn will be a part of the film as well.

She’s not starring in it but a character in the story is based on her life.

If you’d like to be an extra in the movie, e-mail:

Bay News 9 – local-news

April 20, 2016 |

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