Ten minutes east of Fountain Hills off State Highway 87 (Beeline Highway) stands an obscure replica of a 1880s Western town, Gunsight Pass, in Goldfield Ranch.
Not a commercial venture open to visitors, the property owner and builder of the five structures have been reluctant until recently to talk about their project.
“Out of respect for the neighbors, the last thing we want are tourist buses coming here,” said John Waldron.
Gunsight Pass --- consisting of a chapel, replica of Bird Cage Theater, jail, Wicked Saguaro saloon, 30-foot tall water tank, and two facades, Grand Hotel and blacksmith shop --- was constructed over the last 2 ½ years to film a feature-length, independent movie, “Locker 13”.
Waldron, a former Fountain Hills resident, is the executive producer and a screenwriter on the project. He described the film as a Twilight Zone-like supernatural thriller revolving around a mysterious locker 13.
Funds are being raised via Kickstarter (www.kickstarter.com) to complete post-production phases. The goal is to raise $25,000 by midnight, Aug. 25. The minimum pledge is $1.
On the morning of Aug. 5, 98 backers had pledged $9,557 or 38 percent of the goal.
Waldron’s partners are Mesa twin brothers Donovan and Adam Montierth of Brothers Ink. The Montierths have won three Emmys for short films, according to Waldron.
“We developed the idea of a vignette film,” he said, explaining the concept of five separate 15-minute plots woven together by a common thread.
“They stand alone with a beginning, a middle and end,” said Waldron.
‘Locker 13’ plot
“We wrote a story about a kid named Skip who gets a job as a night watchman at an old West amusement town….lo and behold.”
Skip (Jason Spisak from The Vampire Diaries) is a young ex-convict who takes a position as a night janitor at the theme park. His supervisor Archie (Jon Gries of Napoleon Dynamite) teaches him the ropes but more importantly attempts to convey critical philosophical messages through four stories.
One involves a boxer portrayed by Rick Schroder, (The Champ), who is given the opportunity to become a real golden gloves killer.
The four stories come into play when Skip is faced with a life-or-death decision of his own.
Waldron, a comedy writer and standup comedian, wrote the boxer piece.
Idea for film develops
Waldron’s interest in creative arts dates back to writing jokes and performing standup comedy 10 years ago. He caught the attention of the Montreiths after winning second place in a film festival for a short comedic film.
They asked him to join their company.
“We wanted to use the internet for the project from the beginning to end to market and promote the film,” said Waldron.
They sought script submissions around the world for 15-page script centered on a mysterious locker.
“We said ‘think low budget.’ We can’t have any flying monkeys or volcanoes or aircraft carriers.”
More than 100 scripts from as far away as China were submitted. An independent panel judged the anonymous manuscripts.
“Fortunately for us, four of the ones selected we actually wrote. I guess it was validation that ‘Hey, I guess we’re pretty good writers.’ ” commented Waldron.
The filmmakers checked possible locations around town but nothing fit their requirements. Waldron’s friend, David Smith, an Alaska Airlines pilot, suggested building an Old West town on his 23-acre property with the idea that the set might be used for further films. The Saguaro Lake guest ranch was the location for a separate segment.
Film making progress
Cinematographer Russell Carpenter, who won an Oscar for Titanic, filmed the first piece.
“So that’s where we set the bar on our first chapter of Locker 13,” said Waldron. They had access to high profile actors, all Screen Actors Guild (SAG) members.
Recognizable actors, in addition to Golden Globe-winner Schroder, are John Polito, (Gangster Squad); David Huddleston, (Blazing Saddles); John Marsden, (Boy Meets World, White Squad) and Curtis Armstrong, (The Closer).
The filmmakers have a letter of intent from Harkins Theaters to show the film. “Locker 13” is expected to be released Dec. 13.
“Up until now, all our capital has come from family and friends. We have exhausted all those avenues of support,” said Waldron, in deciding to raise funds through Kickstarter, an internet platform for funding creative projects.
“For movie fans and supporters of local filmmakers, this is a great opportunity to become involved with a minimum donation,” said Waldron.
For as little as $25, a donor’s name will be listed on the screen credits. A $100 contribution brings an advance screening for two in the Bird Cage Theater and chuck wagon dinner at Gunsight Pass.
Autographed boxing gloves and a robe worn by Schroder are among several props from the movie to be sold. For a $5,000 donation, a couple could marry in the 60-seat chapel and guests could spend time on the movie set.
If the final deadline comes and the $25,000 goal is reached, anyone contributor will be charged the amount they pledged for post-production expenses of color correction, sound-mixing, music and marketing.
If the goal is not met, no one is charged and no fees are applied.