Filmmakers use Crossroads as backdrop for independent film

Ismael Perez By Ismael Perez

Nov. 15, 2017 at 5:58 p.m.
Updated Nov. 15, 2017 at 10:35 p.m.

Nate Hertz, left, chats with Jad Tannous, 27, and Mark Khalife, 31, as they set up the cameras for their next scene.

Nate Hertz, left, chats with Jad Tannous, 27, and Mark Khalife, 31, as they set up the cameras for their next scene.   Olivia Vanni for The Victoria Advocate

The images of countrysides throughout the Crossroads filled in the blanks for Los Angeles filmmakers looking for inspiration.

Xia Magnus, 31, and Alyssa Polk, 32, went on scouting trips to find locations, the tone and mood they were looking for.

"The original draft didn't take place in Texas at all, but the different locations started to spark up my imagination so I readapted it to fit the area," said Magnus, the writer and director.

After six months of working on their feature film "Sanzaru," a group of 14 filmmakers started their 22-day shoot in areas such as Victoria, Yoakum, Hallettsville, Lower Mission Valley and near the Texas coast.

Magnus and Polk said a big reason they decided to film in the area was Anthony Pedone, Victoria filmmaker and creator of the Victoria TX Independent Film Festival.

The filmmakers became acquainted with Pedone after their short film "Hunter," which was shot at a ranch outside Santa Ana, was screened at the film festival.

Pedone said he liked how the filmmakers used Texas landscapes with wide and open shots, while other filmmaking approaches can be "claustrophobic" and don't take advantage of the scenery.

"The cinematic language of the film was different," he said.

Polk said Pedone was a fan of "Hunter," and he later approached them about expanding the short film into a feature film.

The filmmakers told him they were done with that story and were working on a new script, which they sent to him.

"He really liked it and basically said, 'Let's do it,'" she said. "We have been working with him and the Victoria community for the last six months or so, and it's been great."

Their film, "Sanzaru," is a thriller feature film about a home health care worker who is taking care of an elderly woman with dementia.

The health care worker develops a relationship with the woman's son, and things get "kind of hairy" as the woman gets more and more demented.

"It starts off as a family drama," Magnus said, "and devolves into more horror-thriller elements."

Magnus said the film features a woman who is an outsider living in an isolated house in an area where she doesn't feel at home. He said the filming location had a big impact on the story, the writing and the filming.

"This area is so beautiful, but at the same time, it can be so isolated because you are surrounded by so much land between settlements."

Polk said the locations and scenery were great to work with, and they also started to notice the "small town feel" when people would stop by, ask questions and wish them the best. Some offered their services for a cheap price or for free, she said.

In addition to residents in the community, Magnus said Pedone helped facilitate the filmmaking process.

"Anytime we ran into an issue, he mysteriously always had a guy who could fix it," Magnus said. "That's very helpful in the filmmaking process, to not start from scratch."

When they were introduced to filmmaking in Texas, Magnus said they mostly knew about filmmaking communities in Austin.

However, Polk said involvement with the Victoria TX Independent Film Festival was a seed that blossomed into Texas filmmaking and helped them discover other filmmakers in smaller towns and cities.

"After working on bringing independent film to Victoria for almost 10 years, it is starting to pay off," Pedone said.

He said locations throughout the Crossroads help create a timeless place in American history. Some places can be used as backlot looks from the '70s and '80s, Pedone said.

He said working with restaurants, car dealership property owners who support the arts helps reduce the filmmakers' budget incredibly.

Polk said they are halfway through completing the film and expect it to be done by spring 2018 and will attempt to submit it to the Victoria TX Independent Film Festival, which is scheduled in April.

The filmmakers said they plan to return to the Crossroads to express their gratitude toward the community and to show the film.

"We are really grateful to be here and happy about the reception we got," Polk said. "We want to share it with the community and will find a way for everyone to come out and see it."


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