CHLORIDE - A French filmmaker has recently completed work on his first feature-length American film, shot mostly on-location in the tiny burg of Chloride and utilizing dozens of locals as extras, as well as one starring role.
Writer/director Mark Maggiori spent about 31 days shooting his debut film "Johnny Christ" in and around Chloride, utilizing a crew of about 25 including Kirk Slack, a local documentary filmmaker who served as Maggiori's location scout for the film.
"We'd actually been talking about this movie for over a year," Slack said. "Mark had had an idea about shooting a movie in a small town in the Southwest somewhere, and while we were working on music videos, we drove around and looked at locations and talked about possibly filming in Chloride."
Slack said he has worked with Maggiori twice before to film music videos in and around Chloride. Their most recent outing prior to filming "Johnny Christ" was for recording artist Gaëtan Roussel's song "Save Myself," which went on to become a hit single in France.
"For this movie, he called in June and e-mailed me a list of all the locations they were looking at," Slack said. "What I'd do is go out and film the locations then put them on YouTube for the guys to see, then they'd tell me what they liked or didn't like."
In addition to Chloride proper, Slack said the production crew filmed in several other locations around Kingman and Mohave County, including Heaven's Scent Florist, Hualapai Mountain Medical Center, Mr. D'z Route 66 Diner, the Canada Mart Gas Station and Rosie's Den off U.S. 93. "We used a total of 90 extras from Chloride and the Kingman area and shot at several sites," Slack said. "We had several actors we used from the area, also there was a 15-year-old named Jack Pozenel from Kingman High School who played Joshua Dagger, one of the main characters."
Joshua Dagger is the youngest in the Dagger clan, the main protagonists of the film, who are struggling through tough economic times at the film's outset before encountering an even worse-off drifter, the titular Johnny Christ, played by Mark Wystrach. According to Slack, the family attempts to aid Johnny, in spite of their own troubles, but Johnny eventually reveals his true nature - that of a con artist.
"It's pretty much about their family and their hardships, and they end up losing just about everything," Slack said. "But I don't want to reveal too much - I really liked the script, it was really interesting."
The Dagger family is rounded out by Steve Olson as father Larry and Cheyenne Benedict as his wife, Vera. The film also features Jack Nicholson's daughter, Jennifer, in the role of Nancy, one of Vera's friends, as well as several Chloridians showing up in smaller roles.
Slack said the film cost about $700,000 to shoot and produce, with the crew injecting quite a bit of money into the town economy, eating at the Yesterdays restaurant almost daily and renting out three houses to use as lodging and for film sets. "Work went for like 16 hours a day, 31 days straight, and we had a lot of people from L.A. running around all hours of the night," Slack said.
Maggiori has since returned to France, where he will edit the film footage into the movie's final product. Slack said the production company, Nowhere Features, anticipates an American release some time in the next six months.
"We're hoping when it comes out to have a premiere in Kingman," he added.