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Independent film 'Sironia' premieres in Victoria

By by camille m. dotycdoty@vicad.com
Sept. 5, 2012 at 4:05 a.m.

Contributed photo

If you go:

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Where: Johnson Symposium at Victoria College, 2200 E. Red River St., Victoria

How much: $5

For more info: Visit sironiafilm.com or visit vtxiff.com

As a little boy, Wes Cunningham walked by the church podium and began singing "Hound Dog." His love for music never vanished.

The vinyl sound of Beatles and Beach Boys records inspired Cunningham to develop a voice.

The 41-year-old San Antonio native later began writing songs because he loved creating.

"It's a unique and indulgent thrill, where I feel no pain and lose all the time," he said.

The young artist said his family encouraged his creativity. Impressing girls was sweet icing on the musical cake.

Fans around the world can hear his music on TV shows, such as "One Tree Hill," "My Name is Earl," "Party of Five" and "Days of Our Lives."

The father of three turned a new page in entertainment making of the independent film, "Sironia," because it was his first opportunity to act, sing and write.

The singer-songwriter plays Thomas Fisher, a musician washed up and spat out by the Hollywood machine. To get a fresh start, the disgruntled artist moves with his family to Sironia, Texas, and is forced to deal with reality.

Victoria movie enthusiasts will have their opportunity to see the triple-threat entertainer on the big screen and in person at the Johnson Symposium on Saturday. The film is the second in the fall series of the Victoria TX Independent Film Festival, in conjunction with the Texas Independent Film Network.

"Sironia" received the Audience Award at the Austin Film Festival, and played in the Dallas International Film Festival, Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis, San Francisco Independent Film Festival, Nashville Film Festival and the Sedona International Film Festival in Arizona.

Cunningham said it's been an honor to have so many opportunities to present his work, and each venue has its own special qualities.

Cunningham said Victoria's characteristics are similar to his home in Waco.

"It's not a 'Hollywood' place. It's real," he said.

The pure and cohesive nature of the film attracted Victoria filmmaker Anthony Pedone. As a musician, the 42-year-old said he can relate to the struggles for success breaking into the punk scene. He's relieved to be a filmmaker now.

Pedone said he's hypercritical of films about musicians, but Cunningham delivers.

"Wes really does a good job portraying the many personalities and frustrations of a musician because he is the character in the story," Pedone said.

It's a challenge for Cunningham to watch the film. He said Fishers' most un-redeeming qualities include being selfish, self-centered and childlike. Resentment begins to settle; as the protagonist's dreams exceed his success.

"It's hard for me to watch because I look just like him," said Cunningham.

The cast helps bring the film, which was inspired by a group of songs, to life. Cunningham was intimidated at first to work with the more tenured actors - Jeremy Sisto, Tony Hale, Amy Acker, Carrie Preston and Robyn Lively. Cunningham, the leading man, said his supportive cast made life easier.

"It became natural to forget that I was 'acting,' strange magic," he said.

Cunningham said he's looking forward to being in Victoria to eat seafood, catch up with relatives and play music.

Cunningham said those who have seen the film enjoyed it.

"It's an honest story. It's good art . it's better than staying home and watching 'America's Got Talent,'" he said.

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