Those lucky enough to be part of a packed house for the early preview screenings of Sedona: The Movie last year know what a unique community experience it is. The indie comedy by Sedona's Tommy Stovall returns for its official theater launch on Friday, March 16.
The feel-good film starring Frances Fisher will be opening at Harkins Theatres in Sedona, as well as Tucson and Scottsdale.
At the 2011 Sedona International Film Festival, Sedona: The Movie was a major draw. Hundreds of local residents flocked to see their hometown on the big screen, spot familiar faces and locales, and laugh at the quirks of the Sedona "moment."
"Sedona has so many great characters, great people who live here," says Stovall, who wrote, produced and directed the eccentric feature. "We knew it would make a good movie or TV show or something."
Stovall had earned critical acclaim with his first film, Hate Crime, but a search for a new subject did not take long because he had already caught red rock fever and new the strange pull of Sedona.
Stovall shot the film in Sedona, with a spectacular opening sequence among the red rocks. Besides such noteworthy actors as Fisher, Beth Grant, Barry Corbin and Christopher Atkins, he used several Sedona performers and actors from around Arizona.
Sedona: The Movie follows two storylines during one day in Sedona. A distracted businesswoman (Fisher) inadvertently ends up in Sedona while in a rush to get to Phoenix for an immensely important meeting. A freak accident leaves her temporarily stuck and fretting and quickly exasperated with the locals. Meanwhile, out on a day hike on one of the fabulous trails, an uptight lawyer (Seth Peterson) can't seem to put work out of his mind despite the efforts of his partner until their 7-year-old son gets lost.
Both stories reflect an encounter many have in Sedona,
"Everyone has a Sedona story, it seems," Stovall says. "They are stories of personal transformation. It's very calming. Sedona does force people to slow down."
That was Stovall's experience, too, and why he chose to move here. Capturing that essence of Sedona in a fun way was at the heart of the filmmaking process.
"We thought it would be fun to have a Type A businesswoman getting stuck here and being forced to slow down and look at her life," he says. And while the lawyer's story is not exactly based on Stovall, "we're always talking about how technology has changed our lives, consumes us. We're always bickering about 'Put the cell phone down.' So we went with that story of a father consumed with work and forced to look at his life."
Stovall's own son Trevor plays the part of the boy who goes missing, but Tommy is quick to point out that Trevor would never wander off on the trails.
When he was casting the film, Stovall found Beth Grant's Facebook page and sent her an enquiry. It was a shot in the dark and he thought it highly unlikely she would even see it.
Grant, a busy character actress most recently seen in the Academy Award-winning film The Artist, responded immediately and said she would love to read the script. At the time she was working with Fisher on another project and suggested Stovall try to get her for the lead. Fisher also has a busy career dating back to the 1970s with a wide range of TV and movie appearances, from playing Lucille Ball to playing Kate Winslet's mother in Titanic.
After Friday's launch, Stovall wants to expand. "Hopefully Harkins would want to put it in more theaters," he says. "Then eventually it will go on DVD."
Show times at Harkins Sedona 6 Theatres on Friday are 10:15 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2:45 p.m., 5:15 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.