'Palo Alto' To Hit Big Screen
Peninsula City Inspires Young Filmmakers
September 21, 2006 3:51 PM
A bus driver playing matchmaker, a heartbroken man falling from a balcony, and a girl stealing a car while leaving her guy stranded with her grandmother all sound like something out of a movie.
In this case, it is.
Palo Alto, Calif., an upscale city along the peninsula, was the setting and inspiration for a feature film written by resident Tony Vallone, 20. The story was inspired by his personal relationship with the city. He titled the film "Palo Alto."
“It’s an amazing coming-of-age tale,” said producer Dan Engelhardt, 21, an economics major at UC Los Angeles. “In what will end up being 90 minutes of screen time, will present an in depth and realistic portrayal of life in suburban America.”
Vallone, a mechanical engineering student at UCLA, grew up in Palo Alto before leaving to attend college in 2004. Upon returning home, he found that many of his friends whom he had known since childhood had begun to change.
“It wasn’t anything really obvious,” Vallone said. “It was like a feeling I had, that my friends were different.” He then decided to write a film about it.
The film is a narrative, written in the fall of 2004, when Vallone and director Brad Leong, 20, a critical studies major at the University of Southern California, connected in Los Angeles and decided to write a movie about their hometown. Leong helped to derive the story early on by aiding Vallone in brainstorming on storylines and characters.
The film is the story of four college freshman, Alec, Nolan, Patrick and Ryan, who return home from college for Thanksgiving break, and the events that occur on their last night in town. The four boys each have their own storyline, which overlap as the night comes to an end.
The film begins with the four boys breaking into their old high school, and then going their separate ways for the evening. When they go their separate ways, Alec befriends an older fraternity brother, Nolan gets on a bus where the bus driver attempts to set him up with a girl, Patrick is dumped by his girlfriend of four years, and Ryan gets stranded with a grandmother.
“I guess what I'm trying to say with the story is that it can take as little as one night to change a person completely,” Vallone said.
The story began as a short film with a script of about 20 pages, each storyline had approximately seven pages. Vallone felt restricted by this because he felt there was so much more he wanted to say about each story. He turned his short script into a full-length film.
“The script was very well-written,” Engelhardt said. “The storyline is interesting to actors because the characters transition into real and vulnerable people.”
When Vallone finished the script, he asked Engelhardt and the production company, Anchange Productions, to produce the film. Anchange Productions was founded in 2002 by Leong and Engelhardt. Since Leong helped create the story, it was only natural for his production company to produce the film.
In the past, Anchange has received grants from such companies as Kodak and Panavision, and Engelhardt used them as a resource for the production of this film. In addition, Panavision donated some equipment to the film.
“After we got the support from Panavision, our credibility began to grow,” Engelhardt said.
The script was then sent out to agents, which in turn attracted actors, reaching approximately 6,000 people who auditioned for parts. Engelhardt said that people became interested and really wanted to do the film because of how well written and real the script was.
“We had major agencies calling us, wanting their actors in the film,” he said.
With pre-production finished, and a cast and crew assembled, filming began in Palo Alto during July.
“We toyed with the idea of filming in Los Angeles,” Leong said. “But it is a narrative engrained in how and where we were brought up. It made sense to film it in the town it is based on.”
In addition, executive producer, Steven Gersh, 23, a USC graduate student, said that it would have been substantially more expensive to film in Los Angeles.
Engelhardt said that producing the film in Palo Alto was also very helpful because the community really became involved in the project. Engelhardt felt it was a huge asset to be able to shoot in Northern California because of how open the people were to their project.
“We would walk up to someone’s house and they would be totally open to letting us film there,” Engelhardt said. “No one really complained about the noise or anything either.”
The film is now being edited in time to submit it to film festivals, including Sundance, Tribeca, and Toronto. Engelhardt said that if the film is accepted to the festivals, it has a chance of getting a distributor. Film festivals allow distributors to see the film and purchase the rights if they like it.
Leong said no release date has been set for the film yet, but that they hope to release it in January 2007.
“We set out to make a film that would define the lifestyles of our generation and through Tony's dialogue and Brad's storytelling I believe we succeeded,” Engelhardt said.
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