RIPON – Quaint American towns are recreated all the time on Hollywood movie sets to appear as authentic. But a pair of Central Valley filmmakers – both of whom have a Hollywood background – are going to be shooting their next project in real quaint American towns that are close to their heart.
Ethan Sanchez, a filmmaker from Oakdale, and Anthony Perry Hunt, a filmmaker from Modesto, are gearing up to begin filming “Blackthorne,” an episodic series that takes its cues from popular television shows “Twin Peaks” and “True Detective” at various points throughout the Central Valley in May.
While the script has been written and the principal cast has been set, Sanchez and Hunt – the brains behind Visual Verite Films – are still searching for between 15 and 20 extras as well as a variety of production positions that will be a part of the filming that will take place in Ripon, Modesto, Stockton and Turlock.
While Hollywood can be daunting for independent filmmakers looking to take advantage of the movie-friendly locales, both Sanchez and Hunt are finding solace in the friendlier waters of valley communities that aren’t exactly used to being used as backdrops.
“We’re actually in talks with Ripon City Hall right now because the show is set in a small town atmosphere and Ripon has been one of the better locations that we’ve found,” Hunt said. “They’ve been very open and helpful to us and when you’re in Los Angeles, it’s very difficult to get places that are willing to talk to you about filming and it gets pretty expensive. At least around here, you get a very good response.”
“It’s been so welcome and opening to find locations here, and we’re using a few different local small businesses and sets as well as catering companies,” he said. “That’s not always feasible in Los Angeles or Hollywood, and it’s nice to be in a place that is much more welcoming and willing to embrace the culture that you’re trying to create.”
Together, the filmmaking duo, who joined up two years ago, has been very productive in the time that they’ve been working together. This will be the ninth project that they’ve brought to fruition, adding it to a list of other films that have made the rounds at American and international film festivals.
The principal cast of the show, which focuses on Daniel Blackburne, an unstable detective investigating the murders of the fictional community of Lockhart Bend, is comprised of actors from Los Angeles, San Francisco and even Roseville. While the show centers on the life and the career dealings of the troubled lawman, it also evolves as a character piece that delves into human interaction and the consequences that people face in their day-to-day lives.
Currently the production company is working on securing distribution once filming completes later this year. Thanks to new streaming services, independent filmmakers like them now have options that didn’t exist just a few short years ago, and that means that their production could end up putting some of the sleepy communities that are often overlooked as filming locations on the map.
“It has completely changed everything,” Sanchez said. “YouTube meant that you could post and share something that didn’t have to come from Hollywood, and now with Netflix and Hulu and Amazon Prime creating their own content, there are even more avenues for independent filmmakers.
“When you shoot for FOX or ABC or anywhere based in the Los Angeles area, you’re primarily there. But with these new services, you can do them anywhere, and they’re digital and you can upload them from anywhere in the world and they can be seen by millions.”
A funding Kickstarter has been setup to help the two filmmakers raise the production costs, and can be accessed by searching the site for “Blackthorne.” They are self-funding a large portion of the project themselves, and have brought on angel investors to help make the dream a reality.