A film shot on location in Tulare County by two brothers from Woodlake got its first big break by making the lineup for the Hollywood Film Festival last week.
The 16th Annual Hollywood Film Festival, presented by the “Los Angeles Times,” was held Oct. 19-21 at the ArcLight Cinemas in LA. Among the films, shorts, documentaries and trailers was “Lost On Purpose,” a 101 minute film produced and directed by brothers Ian and Eshom Nelms of Woodlake.
Tulare County Film Commissioner Eric Coyne said he was among 300 people, including studio executives, actors and movie goers to view the film for the first time in its final cut. Coyne said he is one of the few local people to see the film and noted the complimentary comments about the Tulare County’s scenario, including the St. John’s River near Woodlake.
“Our rural countryside was the big star,” Coyne said. “I can’t tell you how many people wanted to know where that river was and how to get there.”
Coyne was integral in coordinating locations for the movie in Tulare, Visalia and Woodlake in May 2011. Coyne said the Nelms brothers were very meticulous in the shooting schedule down to when and how long meal breaks and interviews could last. Coyne said in just a few weeks Ian and Eshom were able to fit in filming at 25 different locations throughout the Central Valley.
“The real purpose of getting your film into these festivals in to show it off to industry executives and financiers,” Coyne said. “There is a lot about this movie working in their favor.”
The film is timely because it centers around a diary on the brink of bankruptcy, something all too familiar in California this year. It also has a culture all its own. Coyne said it has an original soundtrack, an original script and a cult icon. One of the scenes at Main Street Café in Visalia is a diner that features a generic version of the famous Bob’s Big Boy burger icon. Dubbed the “Burger Boy” by those involved with the film, the Nelms brothers placed the life-size plastic figurine outside the theater where people ended up taking pictures with it. The Nelms brothers also showed up in their patented plaid shirts, which has become a hallmark of the hometown filmmakers and their production company Folly Films.
“If they win an award for this movie, I think they should accept it in plaid suits,” Coyne said. “It has really become their signature.”
The film’s biggest boost came earlier this year when one of its actresses, Octavia Spencer, swept Best Actress awards at the Golden Globes and Academy Awards in January and February. Spencer, who won her awards for her portrayal of the feisty maid Minny Jackson in “The Help,” also played Nurse Keller in the Nelmses latest film “Lost On Purpose.” The film was shot at several locations throughout Tulare County in May 2011. Spencer’s character is featured in several scenes shot at Tulare Regional Medical Center.
“It’s a very short scene but Octavia is larger than life on the screen,” Coyne said. “She has a presence that attracts attention.”
The Nelms brothers began writing the script for ‘Lost On Purpose’ in 2007 while living in Hollywood. Both brothers admit that most of the hardwork on their movies is done in the writing.
It’s a story about five renegade ranch hands hired by a gin-drinking, third-generation dairy farmer who is determined to operate outside the region’s domineering dairy co-ops.
Unfortunately, women, booze, and fisticuffs can only lead to one outcome: trouble.
The narrative is driven by Mrs. Liz, played by Jane Kaczmarek (Malcolm In The Middle), whose dairy farm is reporting its third straight deficit year, and her volatile feud with Delbert Furgeson, played by C. Thomas Howell (The Outsiders) owner of the co-op trying to buy her out.
Sharing the narrative are the ranch hands. Randel and Rooker Lee are brothers caught in the crossfire of their parents’ separation. Randel is played by Clovis native Aaron Hill (Greek) and Rooker Lee is played by James Lafferty (One Tree Hill). Wade Kitchanski is at ends with his father, striving to find his own path outside the family paint business. Wade is played by Tom Fugedi (Night of the Dog). The ranch hands are rounded out by Mike Lawson, who plays the role of Leslie Williams, and Peter Donovan, who plays Jackie Remmington.
As the boys struggle to find direction, Ms. Liz and Delbert Furgeson launch into a full-blown war. The Nelms brothers eloquently explain the purpose of “Lost On Purpose”: “To find what you believe in, through change, through loss, even if it’s the small things; then hold on to it and fight for it, because in the end that’s all you have.”
Coyne said the movie has taken on a life of its own given the current crisis in the California dairy industry. Skyrocketing corn prices and severe drought have combined to force many dairies out of business. Industry experts estimated more than 100 dairies will close down across the state by the end of the year.
“It makes the movie more relevant and very real,” Coyne said.
Eshom and Ian grew up on Main Drive on the outskirts of Woodlake. The brothers decided to move to Hollywood in 2002 and, along with four friends began working on scripts and making short films. They shot their first film in the Sequoia National Park for only $1,500 over seven days.
But their first real break came in 2006 when “The Six,” directed a series of four short films that all took place at a movie theatre in the span of one night and each dealt in its own way with the common theme of men dealing with women. The movie, “Night of the Dog,” won the Gold Vision Award for best independent film at the Palm Beach Film Festival in 2007. A trailer of the movie can be seen on YouTube.com.
The Tulare County Film Commission was established to encourage filming in Tulare County and provides support and assistance to the film industry. Filming activities create widespread economic benefits to Tulare County.
The temporary influx of a film crew is like a shot in the arm for local hotels, motels, restaurants, and retail businesses. Occasionally, production companies hire local residents, providing temporary employment.
The Film Commission is funded in part by the Tulare County Association of Governments (TCAG) and is a member of Filming Liaisons In California, Statewide (FLICS), California Film Commission (CFC) and Association of Film Commissioners International (AFCI).