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The making of a grain bin entrapment movie

MANLIUS, Ill. — When it comes to making a movie about a grain bin entrapment, Sam Goldberg isn’t the most likely to do it.

One of the producers of “Silo,” the 2019 movie about a grain bin entrapment and how it impacts everyone involved, says so himself.

“I grew up in New York City and I knew almost nothing about agriculture,” said Goldberg in describing how he found the idea for the movie.

The idea came from Marshall Burnette, a filmmaker from Tennessee and the director of “Silo.”

“He pitched me the idea of the movie. We had a good dialogue about the prospects for a movie about grain entrapment and how that would make a really interesting plotline and how there were very few movies about agriculture in independent films,” Goldberg said.

The movie tells the story of fictional teen Cody Rose, who is sent, along with two other employees of the local grain elevator, into a grain bin full of corn to loosen the grain with shovels.

Rose becomes engulfed and the film follows his fate in the grain and the actions of others working to rescue him, from local firefighters and paramedics to Rose’s mother and the manager of the elevator.

The circumstances – teens sent into a bin full of corn to loosen it – loosely brings to mind the fatal July 28, 2010, accident in Mount Carroll, in which three young men, Wyatt Whitebread, 14, Alejandro “Alex” Pacas, 19, and William “Will” Piper, 20, were engulfed in grain.

Whitebread and Pacas died in the grain bin. Piper was seriously injured, but was pulled alive from the bin and survived.

Goldberg said he was flattered, but not surprised to hear that a recent screening of the film at Bureau Valley High School in Manlius drew close to 300 people.

Bureau County has seen two grain entrapment deaths in the last two years. Roger Cogdal, 73, died July 10, 2018, after falling into a grain bin; LaVerne Molln, 57, died Oct. 28, 2019, after being trapped in a bin.

“We hear that a lot. It’s terrible how common they are and how many people have friends or family or know people who have died in a grain engulfment or some other farm accident,” Goldberg said.

Goldberg estimated that around 10,000 people have seen the movie since its release.

“We have another 200 screenings planned in the next couple of months and a lot of people reaching out for the summer months, between planting and harvest. We just want to get the word out there as fast as we can. We are trying to get people thinking, in a different way, about safety,” Goldberg said.

As producers, Goldberg and his filmmaking partner, Ilan Ulmer, arranged meetings for screenwriter Jason Williamson and for Burnette with ag and grain industry and safety resources.

“Our writer, Jason Williamson, and our director, Marshall, connected with Dr. Bill Field at Purdue University, an expert on grain entrapment. We connected with the Fox family, a seventh-generation farm family in Indiana and they gave us a lot of insight. We connected with Dale Dobson, the safety administrator for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. Basically, we met with experts. We picked their brains and they were very generous,” Goldberg said.

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