Posts Tagged ‘Cafe Cinema Idyllwild’

Zombie Teen Flick Shot in Idyllwild

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Idyllwild is the perfect locale for a zombie movie

By Marcia E. Gawecki

‘Bong of the Dead,’ ‘Chopper Chicks in Zombie Town,’ ‘Dead Men Don’t Die,’ ‘Flesh Eating Mothers,’ ”Oh, My Zombie Mermaid,’ and ‘Plan 9 from Outer Space’ are among the more curious titles of zombie movies listed on the internet.

You could say the world doesn’t need another zombie movie.

“But it’s not just a zombie movie,” insists Armani, a sophomore film student at Idyllwild Arts. “It’s got a decent storyline.”

Armani is talking about “Life After Death,” his short film that was “green lit” recently. (Green means ‘go’ in the film world). The high school students that make up his crew began shooting yesterday.

There’s no ‘zombie’ or zombie reference in the title of his film, which was intentional. In fact, Armani doesn’t even want to discuss zombies.

“I don’t want to speak of it,” he insisted. “Everyone has their own opinion of zombies.”

However, he will talk about is his storyline.

Recently, teen zombies were roaming on the Idyllwild Arts campus

“It’s about a guy who convinces a girl to leave her 5-year-old brother at home so that she can go out with him,” Armani explained.

Zombie drama ensues.

“‘It’s more about the story between the sister and brother,” Armani said. “I’m fighting hard to keep that part alive.”

“Life After Death” is not the first film at Idyllwild Arts that was written one way and turned into quite another.

Two years ago, “Prima Ballerina Assoluta,” Dhavit’s 18-minute short film about ballet dancers, started out as a Kung Fu ninja fighters movie, with lots of death and fight scenes. (See “Kung Fu Ballerina” blog post dated 4/20/10).

“But then Isaac (Webb) and I realized that the only ones on campus athletic enough to carry off a fight scene were the dancers, so we had to change it a bit,” Dhavit said.

Armani has plenty of students willing to turn into zombies for him, but he wants to make sure they don’t take over the movie. The familial relationship is key.

“No, it’s not a true story,” Armani laughs, when asked. “My sisters didn’t leave me home alone until I was 10.”

Kai, a former film student at Idyllwild Arts, said that horror films and night shooting takes a lot of work.

“You have to light every step,” Kai insisted. “Sometimes it’s better to rewrite a night scene.”

Armani said that most of “Life After Death” will be shot during the day or inside the house at night, so lighting isn’t going to be a problem.

“We’re shooting at Bruce Ryan’s son’s house in Idyllwild,” Armani said. “It’s practically across the street from us.”

Look for "Life After Death" to be shown at the IAF Theatre in the spring

Bruce Ryan donated the funds for the sound stage, and his son often lets film students use the house when they’re away. And it’s secluded enough that you wouldn’t see zombies roaming on Tollgate.

Not too long ago, zombies were roaming around on campus. They were not the undead, but students playing a Humans vs. Zombies tag game that lasted more than a week.

“You can stun a zombie by throwing a sock at him,” explained a faculty member at a recent All-School Meeting. “Inside is safe, but outside anywhere is fair game.”

Throwing socks seemed harmless enough until one dancer lost her balance in all the excitement and dislocated her shoulder.

“The sock didn’t hurt her, but her heavy shoulder bag pulled her down,” explained a student who witnessed the fall.

As a heavy fog rolls up the mountainside, Idyllwild appears to be the perfect setting for a zombie movie. Likely, the students have already wrapped up shooting. But in this small town, where many residents believe in fairies, ghosts, and Idyll-Beasts, it’s possible that zombies already roam Hwy. 243.

“Life After Death” and other student shorts will be screened at the end of the school year. The film screening is free and open to the public. For more information about the film department at Idyllwild Arts,  visit

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.


San Jacinto Dressmaker Worked on ‘Gaslight’

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

A young girl looks over sale fabrics at Jo-Ann's in Hemet. Not far away, a former MGM dressmaker recalls working on Miss Bergman's white gown.





By Marcia E. Gawecki

A smart-looking couple poured over books of sewing patterns at Jo-Ann’s Fabrics in Hemet. She was looking for the perfect dress pattern for an upcoming wedding outfit. As it turns out, Rhea was a former dressmaker for MGM Studios in the early 1940s, and worked on the film, “Gaslight,” which also happens to be Cafe Cinema’s Feature Film this Friday night in Idyllwild.

“I worked on Ingrid Bergman’s dress,” Rhea said, “The white one that she wore coming down the stairs.”

Director George Cukor’s 1944 mystery-thriller, “Gaslight” is about a woman who is driven out of her mind, wrote Jeffrey Taylor in a Cafe Cinema email. Ingrid Bergman received the first of two Academy Awards for this film, which also stars Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotten, and an 18-year-old Angela Lansbury in her screen debut.

“Gaslight” was nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction and Best Cinematography (black and white). It won for Best Actress and Best Art Direction.

Rhea said that she couldn’t remember any details about Miss Bergman’s dress.

“That was about 100 years ago,” she joked.

However, she was one of many dressmakers at MGM who worked on that dress.

“No one ever made the whole thing,” she said.

Rhea said that working at MGM Studios was as good a job as any after WWII. The pay was sufficient, but, after three years, she left.

“We all worked different shifts, and it was really cutting into my social life,” Rhea said.

She later worked for Douglas Aircraft, where she met her second husband, Rick. They’ve been married for 54 years and now live in San Jacinto.

“Back then, dressmakers could sometimes mix up the colors on the star’s dresses,” Rick reminded her.

“All the movies were made in black-and-white, so color wasn’t all that important,” Rhea explained. “For example, if a star had a larger bust, and we needed to add more material to the front of her dress, it didn’t have to be an exact color match–just close enough.”

“Of course, now with color film, you have to be exact,” Rhea added.

Rhea said that she had seen “Gaslight” about three times and really enjoyed the film. However, she and Rick won’t attend the “Gaslight” screening in Idyllwild this Friday night because of other plans.

“You should see it,” Rhea said. “It’s really a good movie.”

Festivities take place at 7 p.m. at the new Cafe Cinema in Idyllwild. Food, beverage, and admission are free. Cafe Cinema is located at 53290 Deer Foot Lane. For more information, visit, or call (951) 659-6000.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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‘This River’ Author Bares Family Wounds

Friday, July 1st, 2011

(from L) Bestselling author James Brown meets a fan at Cafe Aroma

By Marcia E. Gawecki

When he was signing books afterwards, you couldn’t help but notice the large veins in his muscled arms. They stood out like a river’s arbitraries and pituitaries. Then you noticed his eyes, dark and knowing. Like someone who has seen a lot, and not necessarily good stuff. You earn those kinds of eyes.

On Thursday night, July 30, bestselling author James Brown read from his new book, “This River,” on the deck at Cafe Aroma. It was the seventh installment of the popular Idyllwild Author Series, but the first at this venue.

After his introduction by moderator Eduardo Santiago, James said that he came to Idyllwild because of Frank Ferro (Cafe Aroma’s manager/owner). They have been friends for a long time.

“I came because of his nice smile on the poster,” admitted Anna Ancheta, a youth orchestra conductor from Mountain Center.

Others were there because they’ve read his many books, including “LA Diaries.” They mingled in with the diners on the deck, who were chatting at first, but became captivated when James Brown started reading from his latest book, “This River.”

James described the Chetko River, located in Oregon, about 800 miles from his home in Southern California. He talked about fishing with his three boys for the first time, and hearing his father’s voice in his head.

“It reminded me a lot of ‘Big Two Rivers,’ by Hemingway,” Anna added. “Some rivers speak to people.”

Yet, James’ unassuming title, “This River,” doesn’t fully prepare the reader for what lay bare inside. It’s a memoir about James’ dysfunctional family life, his mentally ill mother, and alcoholic father, brother and sister, all of whom committed suicide. In the book, James describes how he put his brother’s ashes into the Chetko River, by wading waist deep and releasing them in handfuls.

“Of course, I didn’t file a permit to release my brother’s ashes,” James read. “This is a river of dreams, and stories of his childhood.”

He then closed his eyes and prayed to no one in particular. He was grateful for having known his brother, Barry, a talented Hollywood actor.

Eduardo Santiago introduces James Brown on Cafe Aroma's deck with bright banners

“Many of you may have known Barry from the film, ‘Daisy Miller,'” Eduardo said. “He had a promising career and was headed for the likes of James Franco.”

According to the IMDb web site, Barry Brown, who died at age 27, was also an author and playwright. Peter Bogdanovich praised Brown’s contribution to the film, describing him as “the only American actor you can believe ever read a book.”

“He was enormously talented. He had an IQ of 170, which includes only about 150,000 people in the world,” James said.”But he was an alcoholic, and when he died, he didn’t kill Barry; he killed the drunk.”

“I’m the last one standing,” James said.

In one evening, James Brown laid bare his own troubled life, including his struggles with drugs and alcohol.

“You may ask me if writing this book was cathartic,” James said. “It wasn’t. I didn’t want to return to those dark places, but they were the most defining moments that shaped my character. I knew that I had to get through it or I wouldn’t write another book.”

Eduardo said that James’ mother also had her share of troubles.

“She committed arson and homicide, but went to jail for tax evasion,” James said.

Yet, he nursed her in her old age, after a series of strokes.

“There was nothing to be afraid of anymore,” James said. “She was old and frail. But we talked and I got to know her better.”

“If you were an alcoholic, how do you know that you’re recording it as it really was?” asked one audience member.

Audience members and diners listen intently to James Brown read from his new book, "This River"

“I can’t recall things that happened 20 years ago sober,” James said. “But in memoir writing, there’s always a distortion, but we write to the best of our abilities. I like to think of it as ‘an emotional truth.'”

A waiter from Cafe Aroma, who had read James’ “LA Diaries”, asked him about forgiveness.

James said that he didn’t want his books to be negative, but redeeming.

“I have to learn to forgive myself for my bad behavior,” James said. “And forgive my brother and sister for taking their own lives. That way, I can love them more fully.”

Afterwards, Anna jumped up from her chair to purchase “This River.” B’s Books, which also sponsors the author series, had them available for sale. Some of the diners added the book to their bill.

“He’s a gracious man with a large vision,” Anna said. “His imagery is just beautiful.”

Next up in the Idyllwild Author Series will be “Deus Ex Machina” by Andrew Foster Altschul on Sunday, July 3rd at 2 p.m. at B’s Mountain of Books. Andrew lived in Idyllwild for some time, but he still returns every summer with his family.

“His new book is called, ‘Deus Ex Machina.'” Eduardo said. “It’s a fancy title for a fabulous novel about the effects of reality television on our culture.”

For more information, visit or call B’s Books at (951) 659-5018.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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