The audience was small for the local premiere of “Heathens & Thieves,” which played at The El Rey Theatre on Nov. 25. But each member was fully supportive of the new film from Chico native Megan Peterson.
When the credits rolled, cheers and applause could be heard throughout the theater. After the screening, Peterson hosted an audience question-and-answer session. Lead actress Gwendoline Yeo joined her onstage, as did production designer Kyle Peterson, also a Chico native.
The film has picked up domestic and foreign distributors, Peterson said. As of right now, it is available for purchase at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, and many other outlets.
“If you need some stocking stuffers or anything for trying to get it out there and promote it, so that we can make another one,” she said.
Visit the film’s Facebook page to see where it can be purchased or streamed.
Aside from being co-director, Peterson also had a helping hand in getting talent and the production crew together, she said.
“Anything that you want to get done, you just have to do it, especially in independent filmmaking,” Peterson said.
One of the film’s scenes had a building explode. Several members of the audience were curious as to how it was done, and Peterson handed the microphone to her brother, Kyle. He discussed how the bunkhouse was built with the intention to blow it up. 10 pounds of black powder and gasoline were all part of what made the huge explosion.
“You could hear it all over the valley,” Peterson said. “A window on somebody’s house, about a half mile down, cracked. I was standing on the back side of the house where Saul snuck out, and I could feel the percussion go through the house. It was pretty big.”
“Heathens & Thieves” was filmed in the historic town of Etna, Calif., which is located in Siskiyou County. During this question, the microphone was given to Yeo, who said she sounded “like a tourist” when she described Etna.
A film like this might cost more than what it was actually budgeted. What they decided to do was shoot in Etna, and Peterson’s family was supportive enough to provide catering for the production, Yeo said.
“It really was a team effort and a town effort,” she said. “It was really, really, really touching, because everybody’s there.”
None of them would say on the record the actual budget of the movie.
Yeo’s credits include working with Robert Duvall on the AMC mini-series, “Broken Trail,” a Western film that incorporated a Chinese element, she said. Before that, only one other film had. That film was “Thousand Pieces of Gold,” which was released in 1991. When Yeo had received the script for “Heathens and Thieves,” she was “shocked” to see another Western with a Chinese element.
“It’s so rare,” Yeo said. “It just felt like I had played a lot of characters where you lead by the color of your skin, not by the power of a woman. I’ve played roles where it’s just an occupation or the color of my skin, and it was just a joy to read a script that was historically relevant and the woman was multifaceted.”
Megan Peterson and “Heathens & Thieves” co-director John Douglas Sinclair have a couple of projects they’re looking to do for their next feature, but they are waiting for “something that sticks,” she said.
As with many independent projects, production costs can rise, and stress can become overwhelming during the final months of making the film. But Peterson and crew had one final scene that paralleled the feelings of finally finishing the project, she said.
“By the end of it, the very last shot we shot in the movie was Bill (Richard Doyle) scratching the gold off, and it was totally dark – pitch black – outside, and we had to make it look like day,” Peterson said. “We had gotten to the end of our day, and he’s sitting there, scratching off the gold, and he’s like, ‘It’s a goddamn miracle.’ We were like, ‘Amen. That’s the end of this movie. It IS a goddamn miracle.’”
David also writes as the Chico Events Examiner and the National Boardwalk Empire Examiner.
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