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‘Leaving Barstow': Independent film follows Barstow boy's coming of age story
Andrew is a high school senior, living in Barstow , working in a bookstore and dreaming of Los Angeles. His best friend and his favorite teacher encourage him to go to college and explore a new life outside of his hometown.
But Andrew feels obligated to stay and help support his single mother, Sandra. And when an attractive new girl arrives in town, Andrew's budding relationship with her gives him one more reason to stay in his hometown. In the end, Andrew will have to choose between staying with the people he cares about and chasing his ambitions.
That's the story line of the independent feature film "Leaving Barstow," which recently wrapped up production and is set to premiere at the Newport Beach Film Festival next Tuesday.
According to Kevin Sheridan, who wrote the script and stars in the film, "Leaving Barstow" is a coming-of-age story focused on a young man's struggle to leave what he knows.
As high school graduation approaches, the film's protagonist Andrew, wrestles with the choice between staying in Barstow with his mother and new romantic interest, Jenny, or heading off to college in Los Angeles.
"I wanted to make a coming-of-age story of people who are suffering from inertia and decide to take that leap in life," Sheridan said.
Sheridan, who grew up in Los Angeles, said he settled on Barstow as the location for his film because it is a small town located just a couple hours away from a major city.
"It's not so much that he's stuck in Barstow - it's his relationship with his mother that is codependent," he said.
None of actors or the filmmakers are from Barstow. Sheridan said he made scouting trips to Barstow before the filmmakers began shooting in August of 2007, and some of the exterior shots were filmed in and around Barstow. The interior scenes were shot in Los Angeles, since the production's small budget did not allow the actors and crew to move out to Barstow for a month, he said.
The trips to Barstow led to some interesting interactions with the locals, director Peter Paige said. One night, while filmmakers were shooting footage by the railroad tracks, a neighbor called the police thinking that they were drug dealers. The neighbor had seen a black Audi parked by the tracks and decided it was up to no good, Paige said, but the officers were gracious about the situation.
Another night, a passerby inquired what movie they were making. When told it was called "Leaving Barstow," Paige said, the man responded, "Leaving Barstow? That's what I gotta do!"
The director said he was struck by Barstow's atmosphere, from the screech of the train whistles to the hot wind that permeated the town.
"I really wanted to capture that sense," he said. "Barstow is such a special place. I know the film is called, ‘Leaving Barstow,' but I really wanted to honor it."
Paige has an acting career that includes roles in the television series "Queer as Folk," "Grey's Anatomy," and "Without a Trace." He directed his first feature film, "Say Uncle," in 2005.
Having been raised by a single parent, Paige said Sheridan's script spoke to him.
"The quality of the writing is really beautiful, and Kevin tapped into something really human, I think," Paige said. "The performances in this movie are staggering, so beautiful, complicated without being contrived. They're so human it's almost startling to watch."
Producer Madelon Smith said the story reminded her of her own youth in a small Indiana town.
"I am from Southern Indiana, and the people I went to high school with are, for the most part, still there," she said.
Smith left her hometown for Chicago, where she got a master's degree in economic policy. She went on to work in global media and marketing for ad agency Leo Burnett and the Coca Cola company, before returning to school at the American Film Institute, where she graduated in 2005. "Leaving Barstow" is the first feature film for Smith as a producer and for Sheridan as a writer.
Sheridan's acting credits include a starring role in "Soul Man" and recurring roles on shows like "American Dreams" and "Veronica Mars." He wrote the script for "Leaving Barstow" as a project during his final year at the University of Southern California.
Along with Sheridan, who plays the part of Andrew, the film features Michelle Clunie as his mother Sandra, Steven Culp as Andrew's mentor Mr. Johns, and Ryan Michelle Bathe as love interest Jenny.
The film, funded entirely by private investors, had a budget of about $500,000, Smith said. The filmmakers are currently seeking a distributor.
For more information on Leaving Barstow and to see a trailer see the official Web site at http://www.leavingbarstowmovie.com
For information on the April 29 screening at the Newport Beach Film Festival, see the film festival Web site at http://newportbeach.bside.com/2008/films/leavingbarstow_newportbeach2008
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