When I think of my hometown, Hanford California, thoughts of air that smells like cows, water that smells like sulfur and Superior Dairy ice cream drift into my head. But as a filmmaker, I also think of ideas of what I could shoot there since I consider Hanford my own studio backlot with treasures and talents waiting to be mined.
Hometowns have charm
Hanford retains the small “Hometown America” charm. The downtown center is reminiscent of the square in “Back to the Future,” complete with a clock tower. Old diners and shops project an image that the 50’s are still alive and well. Outside of the city limits, you will find agriculture, picturesque barns and of course, a lot of cows. Despite the Walmart and typical chain food and stores on the edges of the city, my hometown is a place where time has almost stood still: a filmmaker’s dream.
“Hometown America” is not just about buildings, it is about the people. Many in the community have old fashioned values such as friendliness and a desire to help others. I am always overwhelmed when I return to my hometown to shoot a project and everyone seems genuinely excited and happy to help.
In LA, you are asked “is it a SAG shoot?” “Are you paying union scale?” Locations, props and costumes can be very expensive and the permit system is very convoluted. In Hanford, people are excited to be part of a “movie” and often go way out of their way to help, which is a very invigorating feeling for a low budget, independent filmmaker like myself.
Hometowns have amazing locations
Two recent examples where my hometown came to my rescue are trailers I created for the Going Green Film Festival. For the first, which was in 2010, I wanted to make a Western. I knew of a couple, Doug and Debbie Jacobs, who have built their own ghost town. They have a wonderful little set that I had always
wanted to shoot. He and Debbie were more than willing to let us film there and lead me to Tim Farpella and Randy “Tex” Carnley, who used to do gun shows in the area. Both had amazing outfits and were two of the most fun guys I’ve ever worked with. We were able to get Bob Case, who plays
Hanford’s founder “Mr. Hanford” at local events, to make a little cameo. My friend, Heidi Arroues, helped round up kids and authentic pioneer costumes, more of my friends were extras, and we got an authentic carriage pulled by a gorgeous Friesian horse supplied by Frank Leyendekker from nearby Visalia. I brought a few of my crew (Robert Pimentel, Jesse Arnold) to Hanford, my brother Mike and cousin Dean joined the fun, and my parents were the caterers. I shot on Super 8mm and had a true blast making this little western. The budget was $500. Could I have done this in LA? Absolutely not. Hanford to the rescue![vimeo]https://vimeo.com/6747284[/vimeo]
The idea for the 2012 festival was a noir superhero trying to “clean up” the town. At first I tried to shoot in the Los Angeles area. But when faced with locations that wanted $5,000/hour, cities that wouldn’t even call me back since I was a “no budget” filmmaker and the ridiculous permit situation, I knew I’d be going back to my hometown. I’ve always wanted to shoot at the visually dramatic Lacey Milling and the owner, Scott Lendrum, welcomed us with open arms. For the hero, I asked around for someone who was big and intimidating. That quickly lead to meeting Marcel Walker, a local personal trainer. He was indeed big and intimidating and perfect for the role but also a really great guy.
Car collectors brought in their amazing vintage cars simply because they love to show them.
My high school classmate, Tricia Stone, had her sons, Forrest and Skye, as “hooligans.” My friend Eiji Yamashita stepped in as a police officer, former Visitors Agency rep Dick Hauck acted as a homeless man and again my cousin Dean came in as crew and acted as well.
Robert Pimentel, Kris Haton and David Hersey were my crew guys. Returning to basics such as using a wheelchair for a dolly and pouring on the fog machine, made this one of the most fun shoots I’ve ever had. Especially since this was shot when I was in the middle of the post-production battle on Adonis, this shoot was so refreshing and restored my love of filmmaking. The budget was a whopping $750. Could I have done this in Los Angeles? Nope.[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/37043026[/vimeo]
Hometowns support local talent
Hanford has always been very supportive of hometown talent. The newspaper has covered every shoot I’ve done there. Starting back with the epic Star Trek movie I made in high school, the Hanford Sentinel was there. The Going Green shoots had great local coverage which was fun for everyone to be involved and become “stars.” Adonis has received a lot of press from the Sentinel as well including a second article covering the win at Cannes. It’s quite an honor to be featured by the local paper and its award-winning journalists (Brandon Santiago and Eiji Yamashita).
When we premiered two short films I shot after college (The Tuba and Kloan), we even had a float in the annual Homecoming Parade. Instead of a typical limo driving the stars to the premiere, everyone got to ride in “Freddy” the Firetruck, the Visitor Agency’s tour bus. How can you beat that?
Dan Humason, the owner of the 1929 Fox Theater, put a congratulations message on the marquee after Adonis won at Cannes. I wasn’t in town for this but friends emailed photos to me. That was such a thrill and really brought a smile to my face!
These experiences really make me love my hometown. I truly come from a very special town filled with even more special people. I think filmmakers, unless they come from Los Angeles, should explore their own hometowns as locations. Filmmaking is truly collaborative and there is nothing more collaborative than having an entire community want to be part of the process. Hometowns are more appreciative and caring and filled with talent waiting to be discovered. Trust me, it will be more fun.
Thank you Hanford! I can’t wait to shoot my next film there!