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When someone stepped on the set for a movie Don Schain produced, two things were evident, according to Marshall Moore.
"One, he was in charge and you knew it. And, two, he made you feel welcome," said Moore, who worked on eight films Schain produced for the Utah-based Leucadia Film Corporation in the 1990s.
Schain, who also produced a string of movies for the Disney Channel including the wildly popular "High School Musical" trilogy died Dec. 26. He was 74.
Schain, Moore said, "knew how to run a show. He knew how to run it efficiently. He knew how to run it in a way that people wanted to work on it. … He could be firm, and stoic, and at the same time he could be your friend. And he could be your mentor, and he wanted you to learn the way he learned."
When Moore left Leucadia to work for the Utah Film Commission becoming the agency's director from 2007 to 2014 he saw another side of Schain's devotion to movies and Utah.
Schain was the first president of the Motion Picture Association of Utah, which lobbies the Utah Legislature and the governor's office on industry issues notably the motion-picture incentive program designed to attract film and TV production to the state.
As MPAU's president, Schain "looked out for the crew," Moore said. "He looked out for the people who made their living day to day."
Donald Rodney Schain was born Feb. 26, 1941, in New Jersey. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1963.
Schain started his film career working in distribution in the Walter Reed Theatres chain. He moved to Los Angeles in 1971 to pursue filmmaking. He directed several films, his favorite being the anti-establishment drama "A Place Called Today" (1972).
That movie co-starred Schain's first wife, Cheri Caffaro. Schain also directed Caffaro in a trilogy of spy-themed exploitation films "Ginger" (1971), "The Abductors" (1972) and "Girls Are For Loving" (1973) that developed a slight cult following. Schain and Caffaro were later divorced.
In 1991, Schain moved to Utah to work as a producer for Leucadia Film Corporation. There, he produced 10 family-friendly films, the best known being the sister comedy "Wish Upon a Star" (1996), starring the then-17-year-old Katherine Heigl. While at Leucadia, he met his second wife, Shauna Miller. The two stayed together nearly 25 years.
Schain left Leucadia but stayed in Utah, producing more than 40 movies, from family fare to R-rated murder mysteries. Schain was best known for producing light comedies for the Disney Channel, including "Mom's Got a Date With a Vampire" (2000), "The Luck of the Irish" (2001), "Pixel Perfect" (2004), "Halloweentown High" (2004) and "Return to Halloweentown" (2006).
His most successful work for the Disney Channel was "High School Musical," a 2006 charmer about a basketball player (Zac Efron) and a math whiz (Vanessa Hudgens) who each harbor a secret passion for singing and fall in love while rehearsing for the school play.
"High School Musical" won an Emmy for Outstanding Children's Program in 2006. It made stars not only out of Efron and Hudgens, but also Ashley Tisdale and Lucas Grabeel as the school's sibling drama-club dictators. It also made Salt Lake City's East High School recognizable to teens and tweens everywhere (though they thought it was in Albuquerque, where the movie was set).
Two sequels followed, one set during summer vacation (and filmed mostly in St. George), the other depicting the kids' final year and graduation. ("High School Musical 3: Senior Year" also was the only movie in the franchise to be released in theaters.)
Schain is survived by his wife, Shauna; three sisters, Joan Nugent, Donna Schain and Denise Schain; a daughter, Candi Root; and three grandchildren.
A service for Schain will be held Friday at 3 p.m. at Congregation Kol Ami, 2425 E. Heritage Way, Salt Lake City. A "celebration of life" service will be held Saturday, 5 to 8 p.m., at the Alta Club, 100 E. South Temple, Salt Lake City.