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If you’re looking for talent, the Central Valley is full of it, especially when it comes to film making. Recently, a group of actors, directors, writers, and crew gathered together and made an independent film in record time.
The film, titled Impossible, was shot in the valley in just three days. Why so fast? It was entered into the international 168 Film Festival in Los Angeles. In order to qualify, films must be based on a theme and a Bible verse, and be completed in 168 hours. Just filming something that quickly would be an accomplishment, but this local feat resulted in 9 award nominations, including Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Make Up Artist, among others.
A true story based on one woman’s power
Impossible is inspired by lead actress Alena Gerard’s past. Gerard escaped an abusive relationship, and wanted to show people there’s hope for a different kind of life. The theme of the festival this year is “Power,” and this film is an empowering story of a woman who overcame her circumstances.
The film was directed by KP Phagnasay, who studied theater arts at Fresno State and got his Masters in acting from the University of Hawaii. KP was born in Laos, but escaped as a political refugee with his family. He started out as an actor but now focuses on producing and directing, using his life experiences in his work.
I was able to ask KP about his experience filming Impossible, and what the festival’s awards recognition means to him.
FresYes: How did you get involved with the 168 Film Festival?
KP Phagnasay: I had been involved in the 168 Film Festival in 2012, where I acted with my daughter (Kaylena Phagnasay), who was nominated for Best Leading actress that year for Shine. I had worked with another producer/director, Max Terronez, on it and found it inspiring to be part of the process. I’ve attended several festivals throughout the years and wanted to do another one in the Central Valley. My schedule got busy and I wasn’t able to get a team together. So, I promised myself last year that I would do it with no excuses.
Alena Gerard (producer/lead actress) really kept me on track and challenged me to go for it. So, I did. Alena inspired the story. It’s part of her story that she went through, and many other women as well, that Impossible came to be. I found that Alena was such a key figure in the process that she was right to be the lead. It paid off, and now she’s nominated for Best Leading Actress.
What is the film about?
The storyline is about a married woman who’s in a physically, mentally, and emotionally abusive relationship with her husband, and once she’s had enough, she decides to take her daughter and leave her life and everything behind to seek a more enlightened one through the power of her faith.
I hope the audience will find this film inspiring and have discussions about issues that surround domestic violence. I think we all know someone, or even experienced ourselves, this issue. We cannot close our eyes and ignore it, but rather be open to discuss it. Also, I want us men to look at the issue. We have been on both ends, as well. I want audiences or groups to use this film as a way of learning to communicate and discuss.
Where can we watch the film?
After the 168 Film Festival in L.A. on Aug. 25, we will post a link of the film for folks to view and share with others.
Can you tell me a little about the process of working on it?
Each production team, from around the world, are given a theme on which to base their film. The theme for this year was “Power.” The cast and crew from Fresno is named Team 30. The Bible passage we were given was Matthew 4:4, which was our source of inspiration in which to set the foundation of the story. We were only given seven days, or 168 hours, in which to have it fully completed and ready for submission—hence the name of the festival.
When we decided to do this festival, we wanted to work with our local cast/crew. I had worked on many productions, and I run Mad Productions & Entertainment/KP1Studios and have over 20+ years in this business. I knew with planning and hard work it could be done. So we sent out notices and found some amazing folks here. Most of them didn’t have much experience, but we took that chance. We wanted it to be a learning experience. This was the idea of the festival, a way of fellowship. We were all on this journey together.
First, we had to get the script written. We brought in four writers with different backgrounds and styles of writing. There were three guys and a gal in our writing team (Bobby Palacios, Tomas Pena, Gabriel DeLePena, and Lianna Jean Manibog). We gave them the idea story with the verses and they went off writing. Once they wrote each story, we read them and decided which one would be used. There were elements from each of the writers. We decided to pick Lianna’s script and had a blue print.We worked and adjusted as we went on.
We found our leading actor (Ted Nunes), a local musician/actor, and our little girl, Kendall Hernandez, whom I knew would be great for the part. She is also the daughter of our award-nominated hair/make-up artist Gena Hernandez. And of course Alena as our lead actress.
We brought in our Director of Photography from L.A.,whom Alena had worked with on a feature film she was a lead on, The Evil Down The Street. Dan Watt was an amazing D.P. who understood and saw what I wanted. It’s great when you have the kind of person you don’t have to explain much to, but who understands your vision.
We used locations around Clovis and Fresno. We were able to use El Cochinito Contento Mexican restaurant because I had worked with them before. Alena’s house was a main location we used. We didn’t have much time to shoot, and with limited resources, we made it work.
One thing I like to say is that we have a very diverse cast and crew. I wanted to have folks from different cultures and backgrounds. I wanted it to be like a Ohana (family), and it was. We learned so much about each other and still remain close. Everyone on this cast/crew did such an amazing job. I give them credit for their team work. Nine nominations out of 11… we’re proud to represent the Central Valley.
It’s always inspiring to see how the people of FresYes are creating positive experiences for the world! To find out more about this film, you can view a behind-the-scenes video here.
To see all of Impossible‘s 168 Film Festival nominations, click here.
Finally, if you are in an abusive relationship, you can call the Marjaree Mason 24-hour crisis hotline at (559) 233-HELP (4357) or find more information on their website here.
I love where I live, and I also love what I do. I'm lucky to be able to work in a profession in which I get to build relationships; one that has me meeting new people each and every day and helping them to build new lives in my beloved city. I'm lucky enough to work in a profession in which I can marry cutting-edge technologies and marketing techniques to good, old-fashioned, nose-to-the-grindstone work. I am lucky enough to work in a profession that allows me to work as an advocate for my clients; to use every tool at my disposal to get a job done well for them, and with as little stress and expense as possible.
I love my city. I love my job. One inspires my excellence for the other.
Fresno? I say FresYES
Calling all filmmakers: If you’re looking for a fun and fast-paced competition, look no further than the CMAC 12 Hour Film Race.
Free screening for completed films
All films completed in time will be screened at a free special event on Thursday, Oct. 5 at 6 p.m. at CMAC. Following the screening, the judges’ results will be announced and cash prizes will be awarded: $500 for 1st place, $250 for 2nd place, and $100 for 3rd place.
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“The Gallows” is a new horror film opening today. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It’s gathered “Blair Witch”-level buzz over the past couple months and was produced, in part, by the same company that has been scaring the pants off audiences for the past decade with films like “Insidious,” “Paranormal Activity,” and “Sinister.” It also just so happens to have been shot in Fresno and written, directed and produced by two guys with local ties.
“I don’t think we could’ve made this film anywhere else.” – Chris Lofing
Filmmakers Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing came to Fresno for different reasons. Cluff moved to the area with his family before the start of his senior year of high school; Lofing came here on the hunt for cheap locations for his film school thesis and decided to stick around. Eventually the two would meet, when Cluff auditioned to be a stuntman on a film Lofing was making, and go on to form Tremendum Pictures.
A string a viral videos and short films made together would eventually lead to the pair’s first feature film, “The Gallows,” which started production back in 2012. Shot at locations around the Valley—Warnors Theatre, Veterans Memorial Auditorium, Clovis North High School, to name a few—with a four-person cast and tiny crew, Cluff and Lofing had big hopes for their indie horror film. Hollywood heavyweights like Blumhouse Productions and Warner Bros. would eventually come calling after the guys released a trailer online, helping the filmmakers see those hopes fulfilled and get this Fresno-based film international distribution
“We thought we were gonna go for the moon with this movie and we got it. And some stars. We wrangled some stars in along the way.” – Travis Cluff
“The Gallows” could likely follow in the footsteps of “The Blair Witch Project” at the box office. That film, made for $60,000, went on to gross more than $140 million in 1999. No matter how much money “The Gallows” pulls in, one thing’s for sure: it’s already a hit with locals, who now have some serious bragging rights over Hollywood. And Cluff and Lofing are likewise appreciative of the city that helped bring their film to life, saying they will continue to make Fresno their home base for future productions.
The filmmakers are even planning a “Gallows” haunted house in October at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium where much of the film was shot.
Here, Cluff and Lofing talk about where the idea for the film came from, what production was like and what they’ll be doing on the day the film opens, which, if you’re reading this on Friday, July 10, 2015, is TODAY! So go see it.