KINGMAN - Production wrapped this week on an independent film shot in Kingman that includes performances from students at Kingman Academy of Learning High School.
Director Nick Conedera said he was able to address the concerns from local leaders who expressed reservations about participating in production because of a crooked cop character in the film, which they thought might put the city in a bad light.
Conedera remedied those concerns by changing the cop to a security guard, which he said made the character funnier. The cops play hero during one of the film's final scenes, which was filmed at the Hilltop Motel and features a Kingman Police Department squad car in the background.
Without giving away too much of the plot, Conedera said the film is about two stories - one centered around a young high school kid who wants to be a cowboy, and another story that involves the security guard and his drug addict brother who are trying to steal from a doctor running an illegal drug operation.
The point at which those two stories collide is the film's climax.
The doctor's character is based on the real-life case of Dr. Albert Szu Sun Yeh, a Las Vegas physician who is facing multiple felony counts after a yearlong investigation by the Drug Enforcement Agency into the clinic he operated once a week in Golden Valley.
"The situations are serious, but the way the characters navigate those situations is funny," Conedera said.
The film was shot from Thursday to Sunday in Kingman at locations including Upton's Hidden Pines Bed and Breakfast on DW Ranch Road, Ames Medical Center, the Hilltop Motel and several private residences.
Producers worked with KAOL drama teacher Laura Nelson and held auditions for the role of a "weird kid" at the school Thursday.
The role ended up going to student Alex Cleveland, but producers were so impressed with the audition of another student, Johnnie Blake, that they ended up writing a new "popular girl" character for her.
Another 21 kids ended up serving as extras in the film. Nelson said the experience was a valuable one for the students because they were able to gain behind-the-camera skills on top of acting.
Assistant director Tyler Holtman said working with the students was one of his favorite parts about making the movie in Kingman.
"Seeing them learning and getting interested in pursuing filmmaking was really inspirational," Holtman said.
Conedera said filmmakers were overwhelmed by the generosity of the city, including the use of the KPD squad car, meals from the Dambar and discounted rooms at the Econo Lodge, where the crew rented more than half a dozen rooms for five nights.
The film's crew and cast members are mostly from the Orange County, Calif., area.
Conedera said he was giving local resident Monica Busch a "producer" credit for her extensive help. Busch became involved with the project after learning about it from another local, who lives next to Conedera's father in Kingman.
Busch is a member of the Kingman Meth Coalition, and Conedera said he plans to make good on his promise to work with local anti-drug groups to produce a public service announcement for the community.
Conedera had previously toyed with changing the name of the film from "Once Upon a Time in Kingman," but he said that he really likes that title and probably won't change it.
The film was shot on 35-mm film. It will take several months before the film is ready for its Kingman premiere at Brenden Theatres, which is tentatively scheduled for June.
The film will also be showcased at film festivals.