65°F
weather icon Clear

Amber Unicorn offers creepy setting for film shot in Las Vegas

As used bookstores go, Amber Unicorn Books is cozy, quaint, familiar.

So consider it a tribute to Dale Neven’s artistic vision that Amber Unicorn looks so claustrophobic and creepy as the setting for his independent film “Unwritten.”

Last weekend, Neven — who wrote and directed the film — and members of the cast and crew gathered at the store to sign posters and celebrate the film’s release on DVD and streaming services.

“Unwritten” is about an agoraphobic bookstore owner in rural Nevada who’s haunted by a childhood tragedy. He and his daughter are pulled into deadly doings when an evil character from a story he wrote years ago seems to appear, possibly auguring the end of the world.

Neven has created short films, but “Unwritten” — which had its world premiere in February 2018 at AMC Town Square — is his first full-length feature.

The film was financed by Neven’s savings, a handful of investors and about 90 Kickstarter contributors. Neven said the cast and crew also worked for deferred compensation.

“It was kind of a lifetime ambition of getting to this point,” he says. “I thought it was time to finally make a feature, so I was determined to make one no matter what.”

Neven also brought to the project years of first-hand experience working on productions here and in Los Angeles.

“I worked on a lot of low-budget movies out of L.A. and (in) different positions from PA (production assistant) to dolly grip, boom operator. That experience was great, because I got to see how all of the different departments work. So I took all my experience, and also school learning and book learning, and figured out how I could make a quality movie on a very low budget.”

Neven describes the film as a “psychological thriller,” inspired by coming across a character bio for a previous script he had written and noticing that a character was to be born “in about 10 years. And it was like, all of a sudden, what would happen if in 10 years he was actually born?”

Most of the movie takes place in a book shop, and a friend suggested that Neven see whether Lou and Myrna Donato, owners of the Amber Unicorn, would be willing to provide their Decatur Boulevard store for filming. Neven says the couple quickly agreed.

“They were very patient with us,” he adds, because “we basically took over the store.”

“It was fun at times, and at times it was not so fun,” Myrna Donato says. “But the end result was absolutely over the top.”

The Donatos have supported independent filmmakers in the past. “If the big boys came in and wanted to use the store, then I’d charge them big bucks,” she says, smiling. “But this was our way of giving back to the community.”

“Unwritten” so far has won five film festival awards, including grand prize for best feature at the 2018 Silver State Film Festival. Donato says it’s “rewarding to see the awards” the film has won, and that she feels “like a parent when their kid graduates from high school or something.”

Neven said during a break from signing posters and DVDs that he’s pleased to hear that so many people enjoyed the film.

“That’s the most awesome part. Like, we did get five awards, but the most important thing to me is that people are liking the movie,” he says. “That’s been the greatest part, and that’s what I care about more than the critical reviews.”

Preston Goodman says he could see a budding filmmaker in Neven even in high school.

Goodman has known Neven since freshman year at Basic High School. “I still remember the day when we graduated from high school in 1983, and Dale said he was going to leave town and make movies. “Here he is, still making movies. It’s so great to see a hometown guy making a big success.”

Neven’s mother, Linda Neven, has been following her son’s career for even longer.

“He started out with Super 8 (film),” she says. “He made movies and would get all the neighborhood kids making movies. He was constantly movies, movies, movies. Since he was a little kid, he wanted to make movies.”

For all of its suspense, “Unwritten” ends on a sweet note with a tribute to Lou Donato, who died in October 2017 and never saw the completed film. “Unwritten” is dedicated to him, and that took Myrna Donato by surprise.

“I still get choked up about it,” she says. “But I think it’s a great tribute to him.”

Contact John Przybys at jprzybys@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0280. Follow @JJPrzybys on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
The Hangover is served at The Crack Shack in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Khine Moore, executive chef at The Crack Shack at Park MGM in Las Vegas, makes The Hangover with a fried chicken breast or thigh dipped in honey-butter, sprinkled with Crack Seasoning and topped with an egg. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dessert Before Dinner winner Becky Quan
Nine of Las Vegas’ top women pastry chefs offered original creations built around Girl Scouts Trefoils shortbread cookies Saturday night at Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada’s annual Desserts Before Dinner Gala. The top dessert, as voted on by the audience, was an homage to Good Humor’s old-fashioned Strawberry Shortcake ice cream bars created by NoMad’s Becky Quan. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Chef Sammy D is cooking again in Las Vegas
Sam DeMarco served his first public meal since returning to Las Vegas on Sunday, with a pop-up brunch at 7th & Carson. And the veteran of the First Food & Bar, Rattlecan and Sam’s American has more in store for the downtown spot. The chef, known as Sammy D. to his friends, is taking on a consulting chef role with restaurant that will see some of Sunday’s offerings added to the regular menu. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Carl’s Donuts in Las Vegas celebrates National Cream-Filled Doughnut Day
Carl’s Donuts, a Las Vegas-based company that’s been serving the city since 1966, celebrates National Cream-Filled Doughnut Day with specialties themed to fall. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rick Harrison of "Pawn Stars" has a new store - VIDEO
Rick Harrison, the Pawn Stars co-star and owner of Gold & Silver Pawn, talks to the Review-Journal’s John Katsilometes about his soon-to-open Rick’s Collection retail outlet of mostly mid-century masterworks at the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pok Pok Wing at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas serves Pad Thai Thamadaa - VIDEO
Because of popular request, the 1-year-old Pok Pok Wing at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas serves Pad Thai Thamadaa, with shrimp, ground pork, neither or both. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trial by Fire cocktail at the Golden Tiki in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Adam Rains, head bartender (also Grand Poobah and a few other things) at The Golden Tiki in Las Vegas, makes one of the bar’s tiki drinks, (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gordon Ramsay renovating Las Vegas steakhouse - VIDEO
Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay is preparing to re-launch his Paris Las Vegas restaurant, Gordon Ramsay Steak. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Cats owners compete for top show awards
The annual Jazzy Cats event is taking place at the Rio Convention Center this weekend attracting cats owners from around the country and the world to compete for the top show awards. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Brooklyn Bowl in Las Vegas serves blackened Cajun catfish - VIDEO
Troy Remer, sous chef at Brooklyn Bowl at The Linq Promenade in Las Vegas, blackens Cajun catfish on the grill before serving it with mashed potatoes and collard greens. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Gold Encrusted Filet Mignon at Mr. Chow - VIDEO
This just may be the gold standard for the filet mignon. Mr. Chow at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas has introduced The Gold Encrusted Filet Mignon, which is coated with real 24-karat gold. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Working as a mermaid in Las Vegas - VIDEO
McKenzie Kawano works as a mermaid at the aquarium at the Silverton in Las Vegas. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pinkbox Doughnuts opens third store in Las Vegas area
Las Vegas-based Pinkbox Doughnuts, which opened its third store at 9435 W. Tropicana Ave., specializes in doughnuts such as the new Station Wagon, with Butterfinger; pink-velvet Pretty in Pink; and hybrid Glazed DoughCro Bites. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal, with image courtesy of Pinkbox Doughnuts
Starbucks brings back Pumpkin Spice early
Starbucks declares Aug. 27 the first day of fall as they make their pumpkin spice items available a full month early. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bachelor Party Fra Diavolo at Carmine’s in Las Vegas
Roberto Leon, a line cook at Carmine’s at The Forum Shops at Caesars in Las Vegas, makes Bachelor Party Fra Diavolo with eight pounds of lobster, a pound each of mussels, clams and shrimp, two pounds of pasta and two gallons of sauce. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
'American Idol' auditions in Las Vegas
“American Idol” was in Las Vegas Monday looking for singers to compete in its upcoming 2020 season. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegan part of the Harlem Globetrotters
Scooter Christensen, who grew up in Las Vegas, will play with the Harlem Globetrotters at The Orleans in Las Vegas Sunday, Aug. 25. (Mat Luschek / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MSG Sphere at The Venetian to cost $1.2B plus
Scheduled to open in 2021, it is expected to be busier than Madison Square Garden in New York. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Terra Rossa Returns To Red Rock. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Terra Rossa at Red Rock Resort is set to open on Aug. 26.
Hubert Keller’s Backyard Kitchen
Chef Hubert Keller of Fleur and Burger Bar shows off his backyard kitchen in Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Watermelon Mojitos and Chicken ‘N’ Watermelon ‘N’ Waffles at Yardbird Southern Table & Bar
Bartender Cassy Leedom and Chef Norberto Ortega make a Watermelon Mojito and Chicken ‘N’ Watermelon ‘N’ Waffles at Yardbird Southern Table & Bar at The Venetian in Las Vegas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Juan’s Flaming Fajitas in Las Vegas celebrates National Fajita Day
Cook Ruben Fuentes and general manager Taylor Pulliam of Juan’s Flaming Fajitas in Las Vegas prepare steak and shrimp fajitas with the restaurant’s signature fiery treatment. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pasta Shop Ristorante serves a watermelon-shrimp salad
Pasta Shop Ristorante & Art Gallery in Henderson serves a summer salad that combines watermelon with greens, feta and shrimp. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Factory Kitchen in Las Vegas makes classic affogato
Jorge Luque, pastry chef at The Factory Kitchen at The Venetian in Las Vegas, makes affogato with two simple ingredients - house-made gelato and fresh espresso. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review Journal with image from The Factory Kitchen)
The Cereal Killerz Kitchen serves over 100 cereals
Christopher Burns, owner of The Cereal Killerz Kitchen at Galleria at Sunset mall in Henderson, makes a Milk & Cookies Shake from his more than 100 varieties of cereal. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer in Las Vegas makes a State Fair CrazyShake
Bianca Zepeva, a shaker at Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer at The Venetian in Las Vegas, makes a State Fair CrazyShake with a kettle corn rim, caramel, corn-based ice cream, popcorn brittle, crushed kettle corn, sprinkles and a cherry. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Balboa Pizza Company makes Thai peanut chicken wings
Irma Perez, kitchen manager at Balboa Pizza Company at The District at Green Valley Ranch in Henderson, near Las Vegas, brines chicken wings for 24 hours before roasting and frying them and finishing them in various styles such as Thai peanut. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
New Venetian pool deck
Final touches are currently being added to the hotel’s main tower pool deck, which consists of five pools. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who is Vegas Vic? (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada State Museum Director Dennis McBride explains the origins of the Vegas icon.
Slater’s 50/50 in Las Vegas serves a 4-pound Big Island Feast Burger
Cindy Sun, general manager of Slater’s 50/50 in Las Vegas, makes the Big Island Feast Burger with 2 1/2 pounds of the house bacon/beef blend, Napa-cilantro slaw, six slices of American cheese, a can of grilled Spam, six slices of chargrilled pineapple, four fried eggs and a drizzle of teriyaki and serves it with macaroni salad. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST
Renée Zellweger talks about portraying Judy Garland

“It was terrifying and wonderful,” Zellweger said. “But I was so in love with her and thought of this film as a huge celebration of her.”

‘Ghostbuster’ sequel to focus on a family of original film

Ivan Reitman and Dan Aykroyd revealed details of the new film, saying it is expected out next year and will star Paul Rudd, Finn Wolfhard, Carrie Coon and McKenna Grace.

‘It: Chapter Two’ scares up $91M with debut

The launch of “It: Chapter Two” is the second highest opening for a horror film ever and the month of September.