83°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
Bellagio Conservatory unveils Italian summer exhibit
The Bellagio's Conservatory & Botanical Gardens have opened the gates to its summer display. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
A.D. Hopkins on his debut novel
Veteran journalist introduces readers to “The Boys Who Woke Up Early.” (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Seven Magic Mountains restoration complete
Artist Ugo Rondinone’s iconic Seven Magic Mountains receives a complete painting restoration in June 2019.
Making off-the-menu bean curd rolls at Mr. Chow in Las Vegas
Senior chef tournant Cesar Laran has created secret bean curd rolls at Mr. Chow at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. To make them, he rolls bean curd sheets around a filling of carrots, celery and shiitake mushrooms, then smokes them with oolong tea and sugar. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making Bread Pudding French Toast at Esther’s Kitchen in Las Vegas
James Trees, chef/owner of Esther’s Kitchen in Las Vegas, slices house-made blueberry bread pudding, coats it in egg yolks and mascarpone, fries it and tops it with spiced walnuts, Lyle’s Golden Syrup and creme fraiche. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Celine Dion closes 1,141-show residency on Las Vegas Strip - VIDEO
Hear from Celine Dion about her 16 years on the Las Vegas Strip and what the future has in store for her. (Caesars Entertainment)
Lobster grilled cheese at Big Sur Oyster Bar
The hugely popular lobster grilled cheese at Big Sur Oyster Bar at the South Point in Las Vegas is made with white cheddar and served on sourdough. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
You can dine out with your dog in Las Vegas
Lazy Dog, among Las Vegas restaurants that allow dogs, is probably the most accommodating, with free bowls of water and a doggy menu. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sparrow + Wolf at Vetri Cucina in Las Vegas
Marc Vetri will launch a new collaborative chef series June 18, with a little help from Sparrow + Wolf’s Brian Howard. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
10 best things to do at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge
10 best things to do at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disneyland (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run at Disneyland - VIDEO
What it's like to ride the Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run At Disneyland (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ada’s opens at Tivoli Village in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Ada’s, from James Trees, owner of Esther’s Kitchen in Las Vegas’ Arts District, brings Tivoli Village a similar menu of seasonal, artisanal pastas, pizzas — and ice cream. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Nutella French Toast at Cafe Americano in Las Vegas
Harold Norris, executive chef at Cafe Americano at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, coats brioche in cinnamon and chocolate and layers it with Nutella and bananas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Heavier traffic expected from EDC festival attendees
Electric Daisy Carnival attendees began to vacate the Las Vegas Motor Speedway starting before 5 a.m., the majority heading south on Interstate 15.
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DJ Steve Aoki visits Las Vegas comic book store
DJ Steve Aoki visits Torpedo Comics in Las Vegas Friday, May 17, 2019, for a signing for his new comic book series "Neon Future." (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas Smith & Wollensky opens at The Venetian
After 18 years, the Smith & Wollensky location on Las Vegas’ south Strip closed in 2017, to be re-born two years later with a rib-cutting — instead of a ribbon-cutting — in The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Colin Cantwell, Creator Of Iconic Star Wars Ships Visits Vegas
Colin Cantwell, who created and designed such "Star Wars" ships as the X-Wing fighter, and Death Star, met fans at Rogue Toys in Las Vegas today. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Beauty & Essex in Las Vegas makes an EDC Wonder Wheel
In honor of the Electric Daisy Carnival, Beauty & Essex at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas makes its Wonder Wheel party-worthy. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Giada talks Vegas Uncork’d
Giada De Laurentiis talks during Aperitivo Hour, a Vegas Uncork'd event, at her Caesars Palace restaurant, Pronto, May 10, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Scenes from Vegas Uncork’d 2019 on the Las Vegas Strip
The 13th edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit brought four days of food, wine, celebrity chefs and parties to town, May 9-12. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three ingredients Gordon Ramsay can’t live without
Bon Appetit's Andy Baraghani interviews the "Hell's Kitchen" chef during a Vegas Uncork'd event at Caesars Palace, May 11, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas Uncork’d launches wiith bubbles and a blade
Dozens of chefs representing some of the Strip’s top restaurants gathered Thursday at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas to launch the 2019 edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bunky the Clown at the clown convention
Bob "Bunky the Clown" Gretton talks about his life as a clown and the Clown Convention which was in Las Vegas at Texas Station this week. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Frying soft-shell crab at Lola’s in Las Vegas
At Lola’s: A Louisiana Kitchen in Las Vegas, soft-shell crab is breaded and fried and served either as an appetizer, po’boy or platter. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
The Stove in Henderson makes Pecan Pie Pancakes
At The Stove in Henderson, chef/partner Antonio Nunez stacks buttermilk pancakes with pecans and dulce de leche and tops them pie crust crumbs. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vinnie Paul remembered at Count's Vamp'd
The late rocker's favorite table at one of his favorite clubs in Las Vegas. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
4DX movie experience at Red Rock
4DX movie experience during a demo reel at Red Rock. (Christopher Lawrence/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What To Do On May The 4th
There are plenty of events going on May the 4th this year around Las Vegas. Celebrate Star Wars and Comic Book Day all at once. The Rogue Toys, the 501st, Rebel Legion and Millennium Fandom Bar are all hosting fun events to help celebrate your geek-dom. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Water Sports Introduces New Attraction At Lake Las Vegas
Las Vegas Water Sports will debut its new aqua park attraction at Lake Las Vegas Days this weekend. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
THE LATEST
Mindy Kaling dishes on diversity, discipline and motherhood

With new film “Late Night,” a new, 10-episode series and a daughter, Mindy Kaling revels in her many roles: actress, writer, producer and mother.