Best film winner stars Elk Grove scenery

Elk Grove institutions play a role in Sac Film Fest winner

By Katie Freeman – Lifestyle & Arts Reporter
Published: Thursday, April 9, 2009 4:33 PM PDT

Elk Grove residents and Sacramentans were eager to loan out their homes, businesses and acting talents just to be featured in a locally shot film written and produced by Elk Grove’s Mamie Jean Calvert.

About 53 extras, a crew of 30 people, a stunt man (JD Ayers) and cast members from Elk Grove and Sacramento were hired for the film. The main characters are professional actors such as Louis Mandylor, Gwendolyn Edwards and Costas Mandylor of Saw fame.

But the city of Elk Grove shared the spotlight with the stars.

Methodist Hospital, University of Phoenix and the home of an Elk Grove doctor were all local sets used for the movie titled, In the Eyes of A Killer.

“The story is about a clinical psychopath who gets executed and then a blind professor ends up getting the eyes,” Calvert said. “He slowly starts taking on the personality of the killer.”

She wrote a script about 20 years ago, which she finally saw come to fruition in 2007 when they filmed the full-length movie in 16 days. About six months later they went back and shot some “pick-up” scenes for four days.

“I think I wrote a good script- and then I got good stars in it– these people can act,” Calvert said.

The film won the “Outstanding NorCal Film” award– the equivalent of a best picture award– at the Sacramento Film Festival on April 4. Louis Mandylor won best actor.

Her right-hand woman and associate producer, Linda Arslanian, helped direct the film and find sponsors.

She said Calvert wore a lot of hats too.

“She’s got more energy than a 15-year-old,” Arslanian exclaimed.

Calvert also wrote a song for the movie called The Delta Breeze.

“It was an Elvis Presley type tune,” she said. “I wrote it in 10 minutes.”

Films shown in festivals can use any music they want– unlike films that the producer intends to sell, which need to pay musical artists for their music.

So, the women searched for original songs that musical artists would give to them gratis in addition to Calvert’s original song.

“People don’t realize all those little things that go into it,” she said.

Finding the perfect location for the main part of film was of high importance to the success of the project.

During a meeting of a local business group, in which she is a member, Calvert said she wished Witt Widmer would loan her his Lighthouse Resort and Marina on the Delta in Isleton. Widmer agreed.

She rewrote the script to fit the location. The basic story stayed the same, but she revised it 12 times before she was pleased with the final draft.

“When you’re doing a movie, it kind of takes on a life of its own,” Calvert said.

Scenes were shot in Elk Grove and Isleton, where the stars of the film and crew slept.

“So you know they’re on time every day,” she said with a laugh.

Staying along the Delta, Calvert met many locals who were generous enough to loan out big-ticket items.

A man named Sal said he knew someone who could loan her a 73-foot yacht for a scene in the film.

Other businesses and restaurants wanted to be in the film too.

“People here in Elk Grove are so wonderful,” she said. “We went to get an oil change and they begged us to shoot a scene there.”

Even though Calvert acquired a lot of sponsors, loaned items from people like Sal and borrowed clothing, the total cost was much more than her original budget of $25,000.

“If had to pay for everything, I bet it would’ve cost a million dollars,” she said. “But I pulled it off for a little less.”

All the hard work paid off when the film debuted to a packed house on April 4 in Sacramento.

“It was standing room only,” Calvert said. “We were hoping that the fire marshal didn’t come by.”

Watching the audience’s reaction to the movie as they viewed it was nerve-wracking for Calvert. She felt extra pressure because people paid for the tickets, but the audience responded they way she hoped.

“They laughed at the right places and jumped at the right places,” she said.

Using her instinct also made the film a hit.

“I used my intuition for everything I did,” she said. “If it didn’t feel right, I didn’t do it.”

Calvert’s southern charm and laid-back Northern California ease made an impression on many Los Angeles investors who commented on her down-to-earth attitude when she previewed her movie in Beverly Hills in February 2009.

“Networking is unreal,” she said. “I ended up getting so many business cards and meeting so many people.”

The film has changed both the women’s lives.

Since Calvert’s success with this film, she and Arslanian have received numerous offers to produce other films and documentaries.

“Once you get in the movie business, you really get the bug, believe me,” she said.

The women are looking at various projects to produce through Calvert’s production company called “Ambra,” named after her first granddaughter whose birthday was the release date of the film.

Children’s movies were Calvert’s original passion, but to target the younger generation, she needed to make the “blood and guts” movies.

“Unfortunately in the business, if you want to sell something, you got to do something like this, especially if you’re not someone who’s big and I’m not nobody,” she said.

Her modest attitude and kind personality helped her manage the film’s crew.

She said it’s important to treat people well.

“Because there’s nobody that’ll be able to pull off a movie themselves,” she said.

Right now, a “big company,” whose name they cannot mention yet, have the script and are reviewing it. They said they feel confident that their script will sell.

“I believe in the power of subconscious mind,” Calvert said. “I just go to bed every night and mention that company.”

Source from Elk Grove Citizen