Hollywood might be more than 100 miles away, but sometimes it’s closer to Bakersfield than that. Cast and crew from Los Angeles holed up in the sixth floor of the Stockdale Tower on Monday, preparing to film a scene for an independent movie to be released next year.
Referred to as both “Papa” and “Father,” the film tells the story of a young man named Ben (Robert Scott Wilson from “Days of Our Lives”) who has always known he was adopted but longs to find his biological parents. His adoptive father, Jack (Frankie Avalon), is a lawyer, and Ben soon finds out his mother died and his father is in an institution for the mentally challenged, said producer and screenwriter Dan Israely. The movie is adapted from a book Israely wrote based on the real experience of a family member.
The Shinault Baker & Company CPA offices in Stockdale Tower were being used as Jack’s law office for scenes with Ben, Jack and Jack’s longtime secretary, Barb (Ann-Margret). The cast also includes Daryl Hannah as Jack’s wife and Ben’s adoptive mother, Sarah.
“There will be lots of explosions!” joked director Emilio Roso about what would be filming that day. “The whole building will fall down.”
Blocking out the scene’s action before filming started, Wilson (as Ben) came out of the elevator, into the office lobby and pushed his way into one office, where he ran lines of a confrontational scene with Israely.
Standing atop stacked apple crates, crew members worked to perfect the lighting, setting up a large overhead light in one corner and unscrewing lightbulbs from the chandelier in the elevator landing. Others found discreet places to hide microphones, like in a small nook of a coffee table. About 20 crew members were on the set, with more in the parking lot working on hair, makeup, wardrobe, catering and more.
“It’s very easy-going — not a typical production,” Isrealy said. “The crew is like family.”
Israely and his wife, Zahava Israely, are producing the film, along with Bakersfield local Connie Fleishauer, who put up about 10 crew members in her house Sunday night. The film is set to film in Bakersfield for a total of seven days, with the cast and crew going back and forth between here and L.A. Fleishauer said about 80 percent of the film will be shot in Bakersfield, including scenes at the Petroleum Club and Rosewood Retirement Community. Not only is it cheaper than shooting in L.A., the filmmakers also just enjoy Bakersfield.
“It’s large, clean and beautiful,” Zahava Israely said. “Bakersfield is a surprising city. Everything is so beautiful here. It’s very impressive. That’s the main reason” filming is being done here.
Roso also loves Bakersfield, Fleishauer said. He directed and starred in “Revelations,” which he filmed here last year with Eric Roberts and Fleishauer acting in lead roles. The Bakersfield love stopped with Roberts, though, who last year told a local TV reporter exactly what he thought of the town.
“Bakersfield sucks,” Roberts told KBAK/KBFX. “It's simple. It's a terrible place, geographically, weather-wise, everything. But the people are the coolest. What can I tell you?”
Monday was the first day of principal photography, said first assistant director, Kearney Thompson. Crews were still working at noon, with talent set to arrive and perform soon after. Production should take about a month.
While it’s the actors audiences see on the screen, movies can’t be made without a savvy crew, Fleishauer said.
“It’s like cake batter — you need everything,” she said. “It takes a lot of people. The actors might be the chocolate, but you still need salt.”