Film Makes County debut
Early mornings on the farm. Late nights partying in the bar. Floating down the river. Standing up for your friends and family.
The core themes of young life, life on a farm, the struggles of small business and finding your way in this epic place known as the Central Valley resonated with the sold-out crowd at the Tulare Galaxy Theater premiere of the award-winning independent film “Lost On Purpose.” The film was co-written and directed by brothers Ian and Eshom Nelms of Woodlake, who said it was gratifying to finally show their film in the place they, and their movie, call home.
“This is our love letter to Tulare County,” Eshom said. “This is for all of the guys who stayed home and went tubing, fixed cars and enjoyed the Valley during their high school and college years.”
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 lead to trouble and the realization that they are “Lost On Purpose” because they have little direction in their lives but aren’t really looking for anything more.
The movie is almost a dream for Tulare County residents used to the Valley being overlooked as a place desirable enough to be the focus of a feature-length film. Its familiar locations, nostalgic situations and smart references resonate with locals so much you almost forget to focus on the film itself.
Norma Foster of Visalia said she was excited to see places such as a local dairy, the Fox Theater, downtown Visalia and the Pumphouse bar on the big screen.
“I especially liked one of the early scenes when the actor is wearing a Mt. Whitney High School wrestling shirt,” said the Mt. Whitney alumna. “It’s so great that two Mt. Whitney grads made this film.”
Brian and Karissa Rios of Lindsay said tubing down the river took them back to high school and the scenes of small, cramped bars and spending nights with close friends at house parties are part of growing up in the Valley.
“It’s really a story about how these guys and this woman came together as a family,” she said. “I think it really shows the family atmosphere of the Valley.”
Brian agreed, “They were really able to capture life growing up in the Valley. Everyone always says they want to leave the Valley but a lot of people ending up staying here and having a great life. You learn what’s important are things that were here all along.”
Rosann Martin was one of the few people from Woodlake to attend the premiere. Martin said she saw them filming in the St. John’s River in 2011 and didn’t know what they were doing. The crew went on to film several locations in Woodlake including A&H convenience store, Runway Café and General Foods.
“I’m glad they wanted to film in Woodlake,” said Martin, whose parents lived near the Nelms in Woodlake. “It brought back so many memories of high school and really showed what a great place our small town is.”
After the movie, the Nelmses invited cast members in the audience to join them, director of photography Johnny Durango and actors Aaron Hill, Peter Donovan and Tom Fugedi for a question and answer session.
Hill, who played “D1” in the film, shared an anecdote about filming the tubing scenes. He said they originally attempted the scenes in April when the water is pure snowmelt and the weather isn’t yet blazing hot. The cast returned to reshoot the scenes in June without much relief from the freezing water.
“That was the coldest June I can ever remember,” said the Clovis native. “I’m used temperatures over 100 degrees in June and it was like 60 degrees. We were shivering.”
When asked how the five young actors developed their on-screen chemistry, Fugedi told the audience they all lived in a small house on Lovers Lane together for the duration of the 33-day filming.
“We did a lot of character research,” said Fugedi who played the affable “Coloronel.” “We ate together, drank beer and had fun.”
Durango said he shot the film to portray the natural beauty of Tulare County and to give the audience the feel of a small town with an epic backdrop of the sweeping crops, serene rivers and dusty reality of the San Joaquin Valley. He said the visual influences for the film include coming of age stories such as “Last Picture Show” and American Graffiti” with a backstory of small businesses struggles similar to “HUD.”
“I just want to thank the Film Commission,” Durango said. “This is one of the best places I have ever shot a film.”
The Q and A session was followed by an After Party at Bravo Farms across from the theater. Donovan, who played “Shotgun” in the film, provided all of the music for the movie soundtrack and performed many of them for those in attendance. Outside, Rosa Bros. served their famous ice cream with a “Mother Cluckers” label in reference to a product in the film while the Nelms brothers, along with cast and crew, autographed posters, sold T-shirts and hung out with their fans.
If you missed the Tulare premiere you can still see the film at its Visalia premiere. Lost On Purpose will be shown at a Red Carpet Premiere at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow, Feb. 27 at the COS Theater, located at XXXXXX Mooney Blvd. in Visalia. Tickets are $15 and $5 of each ticket sold will benefit COS Theater Arts.
“This was pitched to me by the Nelmses and the Tulare County Film Commission and I thought it was a great idea and a tremendous gesture,” said COS Foundation Director Tim Foster. “This is about the Nelms giving back, supporting the arts community and giving local people another chance to see the movie.”
Foster, who attended the premiere last Thursday, said the format will be similar with an introduction from the Nelms brothers before the film, followed by a Q and A with cast members before moving to an After Party. Tickets are available at ticketweb.com and seats were still available as of press time. Foster said the COS Theater seats 400 people.
“We haven’t seen anything like this at the COS Theater in recent memory and this may create a template for more of these types of events in the future,” Foster said.
Captions: A group of friends pose for a photograph with the bug from the movie. They are (from left to right) Linda Weesner, Jana Cearley, Jade Davis and Lavonne Frank.
Co-writer/directors Ian and Eshom Nelms pose for a photograph with Tulare Economic Development Director Mike Washon (far left) and Tulare County Film Commissioner Eric Coyne. Nearly all of the scenes for the movie were shot in Tulare County.