Film productions are generally sorted into two categories: big-budget Hollywood movies and shoestring independent productions.
A local production, “Mamaboy,” which wrapped a three-week shoot Friday, tried to have the best of both worlds.
The film’s cast includes legitimate Hollywood names in Gary Busey and Stephen Tobolowski as well as up-and-coming actors Sean O’Donnell and Allie DeBerry, but calling the shots are Sacramento filmmakers Rick Kuebler and Aaron Leong. Kuebler is the writer and producer. Leong is the director.
The film was shot in El Dorado and Placer counties. The teen comedy stars O’Donnell as a high school jock who, through the help of an experimental procedure, carries a pregnancy for his girlfriend, played by DeBerry.
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Busey, fresh off television’s “Dancing with the Stars,” and Tobolowski, a well-known character actor, give the production heft, but it’s O’Donnell and DeBerry who will carry the movie on and off the screen.
O’Donnell, 18, who looks like a young Tom Cruise, boasts a social media following that comfortably outstrips his acting résumé – 1 million Instagram followers and 262,000 followers on Twitter. DeBerry, 20, whose television career includes a run on Disney Channel’s “A.N.T. Farm,” also has a social media following exceeding the film’s more established talents – 216,000 Instagram followers and 134,000 followers on Twitter.
As a young actor living in Hollywood, O’Donnell said he was eager to tackle a role that tested his skills.
“I was just really intrigued,” he said of his role as Kelly Hankins. “He gets to experience the full range of human emotion.”
DeBerry said she has gotten to see a little of the area, including Placerville, Old Sacramento and Lake Tahoe.
Kuebler, 66, has been developing the story and script for years, all while trying to help other screenwriters through the Capital Film Arts Alliance. At the monthly screenwriters group, he’d occasionally share updates on his efforts first to find financial backers, then to cast the script with the level of cast capable of getting a return on this investment.
Leong, 39, is a recent graduate of The Art Institute of California, Sacramento.
The production leaned heavily on locals to fill crew positions.
With the Oscar-nominated Busey on board, the film attracted a healthy amount of local media coverage.
But as Martin Anaya of the Sacramento-based California Film Foundation points out, recognizable names alone are not enough to ensure distribution or box-office success.
“You can’t bank a film on Gary Busey; it has to be about the art,” Anaya said. He added: “Or any celebrity,” citing the box-office struggle of Johnny Depp’s “The Lone Ranger.”
He said the local film community will grow more through the development of homegrown talent who want to shoot their films here, as opposed to hoping more large Hollywood productions decide to film in the region.