David Schwimmer has a well-earned reputation as a TV star after 10 years playing Dr. Ross Geller on NBC's mega-hit "Friends," although these days he is more focused on what happens behind the camera.
Schwimmer talked to reporters Tuesday on the Ann Arbor set of "Trust" _ the 43-year-old's second foray into directing a feature film, coming on the heels of last year's Simon Pegg comedy "Run Fatboy Run."
"Trust" is a different kind of movie, and for Schwimmer a much more personal one.
It stars Clive Owen and Catherine Keener as the parents of a 14-year-old girl who is raped by an online predator.
Countering child sex abuse is an important issue for Schwimmer, who serves on the board of directors of the Rape Foundation of Santa Monica (Calif.) and has been working on bringing a story of this kind to the big screen for some time.
Schwimmer has met with victims of child sexual abuse and "was really moved by some of the stories," he said, "and in particular their families."
Seven years ago, a victim's father spoke at a fundraiser Schwimmer attended and discussed in stark terms the anguish and anger he felt when he learned his teenage daughter had been groomed online and later raped.
That man was the inspiration for Owen's character, who has difficulty coping with the attack on his daughter.
It has been an opportunity for Owen to turn in what "Trust" producer Heidi Jo Markel called a "meaty performance" that she said was tonally similar to that by Tom Wilkinson in the Oscar-nominated "In the Bedroom" in which his character seeks justice for the untimely death of his son.
On Tuesday, the production team was filming a scene in which Owen's character receives a critical cell-phone call from the FBI while he's going through a security checkpoint at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and becomes agitated when he's told to get off the phone.
The film is set in the Chicago suburb of Wilmette, Ill., not far from Schwimmer's alma mater of Northwestern University in Evanston. But with the exception of some exterior shots of the Windy City, "Trust" has largely been filmed in Michigan.
Some of the outdoor scenes were shot in the Detroit suburb of Plymouth _ where residents and businesses sometimes brought cookies and tea to the set _ others were shot at a high school in Dexter and the rest at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where Schwimmer and company say they discovered gold.
The university closed on a deal in June to purchase a 174-acre, 30-building complex from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. Now called the North Campus Research Complex, it is mainly vacant, meaning the crew was free to transform a cafeteria into O'Hare and an empty room into the Chicago FBI field office among others sets.
"This facility is unbelievable and has saved us a lot of time and money," said Schwimmer, who believes Michigan's generous incentives _ a refundable tax credit of up to 42 percent on production expenses _ allows him to film five more days here compared with Illinois at the same price.
"Trust" is being financed by Millennium Films and has an international distribution deal lined up, but still is seeking a domestic distributor. The producers expect to take the film on the festival circuit next year and, Markel said, in a perfect world release it around Christmas 2010. Filming wraps on Dec. 16.
Schwimmer's goals for the film are "to entertain and also educate."
"Perhaps it could have an effect the way movies like 'The Accused' did for its time," he said.