Today, Dakota Fanning and Evan Rachel Wood enter their 16th day of a 25-day shoot on a locally produced film, and they have a new cast mate: Jon Bernthal from “The Walking Dead.”
Bernthal landed in Vegas on Monday, joining a sharp call sheet including “X-Men: First Class” alums Zoe Kravitz and Caleb Landry Jones, plus Frank Dillane, Jeremy Allen White from “Shameless,” and “Girls’ ” Sarah Steele and Olivia Luccardi.
Fanning portrays a 1980s punk roadie in the (now untitled) movie written and directed by Gerardo Naranjo.
This is the first feature produced by Vegas-bred Lola Pictures (related to Downtown Films/Silver State Production Services), in tandem with the New York film company Verisimilitude.
More news: Lola producer Chris Ramirez told me Monday that Lola Pictures is planning a fall production of “Dulcinea,” in which Las Vegan Nicolas Cage would portray a Wayne Newton-type performer. “Dulcinea” was written by Mark Fergus, who co-wrote “Children of Men” and “Iron Man.”
“We’re working out the rights to that now,” he said.
He also is trying to secure rights to a Jerry Tarkanian bio.
“I want Paul Giamatti to play Jerry Tarkanian,” Ramirez said.
In the old days, if someone in Vegas said he was producing films with Fanning, Wood and Cage, you’d look at him suspiciously and say, “Sure, dude, good luck,” and walk away.
But Lola/Silver State is for real. And the new Nevada tax incentive for filming is working. Ramirez, founder of Silver State, had tried to develop movie financing for years when he partnered with downtown titans Tony Hsieh and Fred Mossler.
“Then we bought a bunch of trucks and gear and the nuts and bolts of production,” Ramirez said.
That led to Silver State working on out-of-town sets. Creative Artists Agency, which reps director Naranjo, talked with Lola about this new film. So Ramirez approached the downtown guys with a track record and a pitch.
“This is the first time I went to them and said, ‘Hey, I want us to now finance a movie.’ It wasn’t that simple, but pretty much they said, ‘Let’s see if you guys can make this work and grow the industry.’
“We work on so many other people’s productions that come into town and then leave, which is great. We all need that. That’s great money. We love doing it,” Ramirez said. “But we always, always, wanted to have a very real industry here where it was being financed and developed here.”
This burgeoning film base is what Ramirez promised the downtown guys a couple of years ago.
“And now, we have this big cast hanging at the Downtown Grand and eating at Le Thai, and eating at Container Park. It’s exactly what those guys wanted to see, much less if we make a good movie and make their investment back.”
Out-of-town producers usually import key cast and crew, and hire some local assistants and labor.
“But because we were local, we kind of put our foot down and said, ‘We are going to hire locals.’ So we hired like 95 to 97 percent local crew,” Ramirez said.
“We rented 100 percent of our gear locally, which is kind of crazy. I pounded the drums about being a local company all through the tax hearings last year, so I had to put my money where my mouth was.”
Ramirez said Vegas has three challenges to work on.
One: “There are some talented people here, and some hard workers, but there are only enough for, like, one big movie. We need two- and three-deep, like a bench on a basketball team. We need more depth.”
Two: “Getting more gear here. We’re meeting with a company out of LA right now that wants to bring out a bunch of gear and possibly partner with us.”
Three: “We have to send a lot of the post-production out of state to New York or LA. I want to build all that stuff up in-house, so we don’t have to do that anymore, so we can do color correction and sound and editing here.”
But local production has already come a long way, he said.
“Our footage looks so good right now.”
Doug Elfman’s column appears on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/entertainment/reel.