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Aria Pictures PCS Journey part 3 | Aria Pictures Weblog

Gary Udell Toasting the Cast & Crew of THE GOLdEN TREE on production wrap.

Date: October 20, 2010
Author: Gerald Martin Davenport
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Aria Pictures PCS Journey part 2 — THE GOLdEN TREE

[ Find more detailed information on THE GOLdEN TREE in the new Aria Pictures Film Encyclopedia ]


Aria Pictures Presents THE GOLdEN TREE a gerald Martin Davenport Film.

On the evening of Wednesday, May 20th, 2009 after attending the Cast & Crew Call for Access Sacramento's Tenth Place Called Sacramento. “I have lived in the area since 1979, and never heard of this screenwriting contest. What would I write for next year's contest if I were to submit?” I asked myself. “What does Sacramento have for a story that is Sacramento? It has to be about Sacramento and the area. It is called A Place called Sacramento.” I began my creative process as I drove up Interstate 80 and merged onto Highway 49 heading home to historic Grass Valley & Nevada City, and That is when it hit me.

“I love history — accurate history — and I am intrigued by the Gold Rush. What if…” I began writing in my mind, and a campy version of National Treasure began to take life, but it did not breathe; it fought against every idea Gerald gave it, as though it did not want to exist that way.

The story took a life of its own and requested that I actually research the history of the gold rush in Northern California, so for eleven months, I wrote, rewrote, and researched the people, events, and activities of some historical figures and a few infamous characters.

In the end, I had a 32-page screenplay with horses, carriages, gunfights, and streets lined with the historic past. I knew I did not have resources for everything, plus it could only be ten pages, well, a ten-minute movie; with proper screenplay formatting, ten pages are ten minutes 999 out of 1,000 times.

After submitting and waiting — a part of me felt it would be selected as it was about Sacramento, unlike the other movies I saw in 2009 where they just showed streets and buildings or said the word Sacramento, and it seemed to be enough. But those movies could have been made in Japan, Texas, or Illinois. Then there was the part of me that felt they did not know me, and their choices for last year were lame, so maybe they do not know a good story and how to read a screenplay from the nose on their face.

THE-GOLdEN-TREE Gary Udell | Kyrie Sierra Davenport | Meghan (Engle ) Quinn
THE-GOLdEN-TREE Gary Udell | Kyrie Sierra Davenport | Meghan (Engle ) Quinn

I received a notice that THE GOLdEN TREE was selected and prepared for the Cast & Crew Call. Having Gary Udell and my son Aria on board, we showed up and started talking to people at 5:30; we were not supposed to begin until 6 and were to end at 9, but we went till 9:30. We had three lines, one to Aria, Me, and Gary, but they all eventually needed or wanted to talk to me. I only needed 4 actors, and the first one was a cute little girl whom I had to inform, “I do not have any parts for children.” When the crowd heard this I thought I might be lynched, but I reassured them that I did not have any until now. I can rewrite it.”

WENT HOME WITH 90 HEADSHOTS; plus 20 emails from people that could not make it that night.

Gary Udell is on the audio Boom while Brendan Brooks runs the crane

I was elated with the interest in me and my story, at least the story was good; Thoughts crossed my mind. “Why just one miner, why not two? Why just two outlaws, why not five? Rattlesnake Dick did have a big gang. And why one daughter? Why not have two daughters?” The additions continued and we had 25 characters in a 10-minute movie; Wanting to make a longer one; take advantage of this opportunity; great opportunity to let people know who and what I can do just as much as get to know them.

THE-GOLdEN-TREE deleted scene.
a scene that did not work out due to location and visual looks.

THE GOLdEN TREE was an undertaking starting with choosing actors to play the characters. Since we had so many actors to choose from, I was going to let them say NO to me. Gave everyone the option to be a part of the film only if they could adhere to three requirements.

  1. The movie was to be filmed on location in Grass Valley, Nevada City, and Amaloc, California, so there was some driving to do.
  2. You have to provide your own wardrobe/costume to fit the needs of the era you were playing; we were going back to 1848, so there were some serious thought and research that went into it.
  3. A few characters may not be heard in the 10-minute version, but they are seen; however, you get the full scene of yourself in the longer version, and everyone gets a copy of the movie on DVD of both versions.

Some actors said no, but the majority that was asked took the offer and made it work. Everyone was important in making the movie happen, the credits identify everyone's contribution to the film; however, there are a few key figures that stand out: Brendan Brooks, Jim Heck, Danny Gray, Noble Engle, Tamara Davenport, Aria Davenport, Kyriè Davenport, Scott Slotterbeck, Bill Gallant, Peggy Levine, and Gary Udell.

The production also demanded authentic weapons of the 1850s, a river bed location for important scenes, artwork for props and gold pieces, as well as, dialogue and mannerisms of the era. This was not only fun but crazy as well; hoping we did not forget to make or bring something to the distant locations. All of which were on, or not too far away from, actual historic locations, such as the North Star House, designed by Julia Morgan, who went on to design the Hearst Castle at San Simeon, and many others; and we were only 1.5 miles from the discovery of gold by James Marshal, (Jenny Cloud Wimmer found gold at Sutter's Mill 6 months prior, but women and non-white folk were just peons and nobody is in that time period. You do lots of research and when 10 out of 10 history books mention it, you take it with some merit).

The constant research was the beginning of the real journey for THE GOLdEN TREE; I learned more about the Wimmer Family than I have my own through Genealogy sites and help. With so much effort put into this, I may have psyched myself up too much going into the Premiere at the Crest Theater thinking we should win all the awards, if not most of them.

I volunteered myself, Brendan Brooks, Aria Davenport, and anyone else who was interested in helping out Guy Pace on his Treasures of South Sacramento PCS film when his camera guy left him cold. Brendan and I were Co-Directors and Cinematographers, while Aria helped on the crew as well as, was a bit part at the end of the movie. The editing was NOT done by me!

The 10-minute version played to 800 people there was laughter and tension where it was intended, and the audience gave louder applause than a few others, but not the loudest. THE GOLdEN TREE did not win; not even the audience favorite since most of the actors were also in other films; Rob Tillitz was in four PCS films; Being it was our first encounter with each other, which one would he choose? Which one did he choose? Some people have stated that “if they could have seen the full-length version of THE GOLdEN TREE, it would have taken all the awards.”

We had a public viewing for around 340 people at the Del Oro in Grass Valley for the 42-minute version. The pre-viewing material was trivia about the area, the gold rush, and actors in the movie; we needed previews of movies to show before the feature, so I showed previews from Paint, a World Next Door, and Chardonnay. THE GOLdEN TREE was viewed in its original High Def recording on the big screen, in the big room, and looked and sounded awesome! Part of the proceeds went to Women of Worth, thanks to Sandy Schmidt the founder, who helped us out with support.

After the showing, many of the patrons asked about this Chardonnay film, since it made them tear up. While explaining it to them, I began to wonder if, I should do a family movie first.

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