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home : arts & entertainment : arts & entertainment February 5, 2016

7/15/2014 1:31:00 PM
Second screening of Sisters movie is a hit
By Diane Goble

Does a funny-looking little dog have the power to change people's hearts and minds? It would seem "Ugly Benny" does. The adorable family movie had its second screening in Sisters Sunday evening to a packed house at The Belfry. Producer Michael Gough started off the program by thanking Angeline Rhett for her support.

Gough told the audience that he and his friend writer/director Richard Brandes were vacationing with their respective partners in Napa Valley when Gough asked Brandis why he was taking so many pictures of small towns. He said he had a script that takes place in a small town and was looking for a location. When Gough read the script he thought, "this could have happened in Sisters" and invited his friend up to take a look around. The rest is history.

"Ugly Benny" takes place in the small town of Summerville, which looks remarkably like Sisters. The main characters, played by professional actors Timothy Justus (Sam) and Karen Tarleton (Emma), are the owners of For Pet's Sake pet store, and it is on their doorstep that a basket, containing a fuzzy, frumpled, tiny ball of frazzled yarn with four paws mysteriously arrives and proceeds to mend hearts, solve people's problems, including a troubled young boy named Alex (Diego Josef), and bring people closer together.

Comments after the screening were: "amazing," wonderful," "great family movie," "heart-warming." Six-year-old Baylor "really, really liked it." Eight-year-old Amy thought the best part was when Alex got his cat back. A group of women responded, "It was like those Hallmark movies," "like the old Disney movies I used to watch as a kid," "I can't wait to watch it with my grandchildren." Ninety-year-old Russell Williams said, "It was fun to realize it was all filmed right here. I really enjoyed watching it and seeing familiar places."

Gough and his partner Eli Pyke, director of photography, were able to utilize local craftspeople and professional film crews to create a quality production and showcase Sisters Country as a viable location for film production.

"We got outstanding support from the community while we were shooting," Gough said. "People were asking 'What can I do? How can we help?'"

Gough pulled in favors, got free locations, found local crews willing to put in the time. They even had a student intern from Bend who wants to get into the film industry working with them. Their goal was to prove they could make a good family-oriented movie on a low budget, and turn a profit.

"The woman from L.A. who backed 'Ugly Benny,' Gough said, "has already doubled her money with syndications."

By selling theatrical rights in the U.K., South America, Europe, and DVD rights, there's money to be made. There are two sound-tracks - take out the voices, leave the effects, and dub in the foreign languages.

"I don't want to go back to L.A.," says Gough. "I want to create a cottage industry for low-budget, family-oriented films right here in Sisters. These are some good-paying jobs, there's no pollution, and it circulates money in town. I dropped $45-50,000 at Ray's, Melvin's, Lutton's, Habitat, restaurants, motels and equipment rentals."

Gough and Pyke are already casting for their next script - a story about a 12-year-old girl and a wild horse to be shot in and around Sisters. They have raised half the money and are looking for Sisters money for the rest so it goes back into the community.

Gough told one man, "Anybody into family entertainment, who's willing to take a risk, send him my way. We plan to make one movie after another and keep the momentum going."

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