Silver State, silver screen
Ready for your close-up? Local filmmakers come back to their Reno roots to shoot.
On a recent evening I found myself holding back my friend’s hair as she simulated vomiting in the background of a raucous party scene. No, I wasn’t trying to relive my college days, I was an extra in a movie being filmed in Reno. My role wasn’t exactly glamorous or Oscar-worthy, but just being on the set was a mindful testament to Reno’s rising prominence as both origin and destination for creative minds.
Scripting the past
The film, called The Waterhole, is a first attempt at movie-making for friends and former Reno residents Nathan Cole and Daniel Menahem. Cole wrote the script over ten years ago and based it on his experiences as a young man in Reno facing his uncertain future. Menahem and Cole acted as co-producers on the film.
“As it was my first script,” says Cole, “I went with the tried and true ‘write what you know,’ and decided to write about myself and my friends at our local Reno bar. I tried to really recreate the mood of what we were all going through at that point, which happened to be drinking and dealing with the women in our lives.”
The result is a film about a guy named Miller, who after parting ways with his girlfriend and contemplating his next step, decides to take shelter in a local dive bar just purchased by life-long friend Murphy. Miller is joined at the bar by his roommate, Jim, who is equally unprepared to face his future, including his recent engagement.
“These friends each experience a big personal event,” says Cole. “One breaks up with the love of his life, the other gets engaged as a matter of practicality and the last buys their neighborhood bar. The bar becomes a shelter where they can hide from the world and their problems.”
Getting the story straight
The film was shot entirely on location in Reno, with Corrigan’s Bit O’Ireland on Wells Avenue standing-in as the fictional bar.
“The story is certainly based on friends and experiences I had during this time in my life,” Cole adds, “but it is still very much fictionalized to enhance the drama and move the story along.”
Cole essentially grew up in the Reno area, and Menahem has split his time between Reno and Washington, D.C., for the last 16 years. As the film is based on Cole’s life as a young man in Reno, the Biggest Little City won out over a more convenient Los Angeles sound stage as the shoot’s location.
“Reno was in its own way a character in the film,” says Cole. “This movie is as much about Reno as anything else. If I had moved to L.A. right after college, this movie would not have existed. It was a time where I knew I should be doing more with my life but wasn’t. I wanted to make movies but had no idea how or where to start other than to move to Los Angeles. So that’s what I eventually did, and every time I walk onto a studio lot I still have a moment where I look back to Reno and think, ‘How did I get here?'”
Cole currently works in Los Angeles for the anti-piracy unit of the Motion Picture Association of America.
“Shooting in Reno was always mandatory,” Cole adds. “And although I have been back numerous times since moving, filming the movie really brought to the surface all the good things I love about the town. I cannot imagine trying to film this movie on a sound stage in L.A.”
Menahem also enjoyed shooting in his hometown, but speaking as a true executive producer (read: the money man), he also felt the constraints.
“Shooting in Reno was a mixed bag,” he says, “On one hand, we have many local contacts and friends and family who all helped greatly. On the other hand, a film-industry support system does not exist in Reno. Meaning, we had to hire all the crew from L.A., bring them to Reno and put them up in hotels for the duration of the shoot—a cost we could have saved with a local crew.”
“Catering is a great example. On one hand, we had to follow union rules of providing two hot meals on the set, six hours a apart; on the other hand, we were shooting odd hours, in the middle of the night, which would make catering prohibitively expensive. So we took it on ourselves. With the help of local businesses like PJ’s Saloon, the Hacienda Restaurant, Portofino’s and Scruples, we managed to piece together meals for the crew and cast that were not only very good, but also came in under budget.”
The city of Reno played its part in helping the filming run smoothly, but the story should succeed in the long run because of the talent of the cast and crew.
Setting the scene
The night I was on the set, you could just feel the good vibes in the air. Despite all-night shoots and incredibly long hours, everyone was nice and seemed to be having a genuine good time.
And Cole believes without a doubt The Waterhole will be a career-defining role for the film’s main actor, namely Patrick J. Adams, who plays the part of Miller.
“This is an actor’s movie: few locations, heavy dialogue,” says Cole. “We always said we don’t care about names; we care about talent. It paid off immensely. This was especially crucial in casting for the character that was to be based on myself and my ex-girlfriend as they were so personal. Patrick, in particular, is in every scene and he had a lot of weight on his shoulders. If he didn’t work, the movie didn’t work, period.”
Adams, who lives in Los Angeles and splits his time between pursuing a career as an actor and as a photographer, says he felt an immediate connection with the Miller character.
“Miller appealed to me instantly because I think he was written with people my age in mind. There are patterns people fall into, and Miller is no exception. He has found a comfortable little hole to hibernate in where he can be mediocre and still be rewarded for it.”
“Miller theorizes and preaches about every inane subject he can think of rather than admit that he might not know everything, and I think that is what the movie is ultimately about. I responded to it because I think, at this point in my life, I’m beginning to realize what a challenge really making that discovery is.”
Adams has had small roles on shows such as Lost, Without a Trace and Cold Case. He also played a pledge brother in the comedy Old School.
Cole has a lot of confidence in his lead actor. “In the end, Patrick did an amazing job, and if he is not a huge star one day, I will forsake this town to sell insurance somewhere in the Midwest.”
The Waterhole is currently in post-production and should be finished sometime in the next few months. Cole and Menahem plan on having premieres in both Reno and Los Angeles.
You can learn more about the film at www.kr7productions.com.