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Yumans write, star in movie on screen Thursday
“The Debacle,” a film recently completed by a Yuma pastor who directed and co-starred, premieres Thursday in Yuma at Harkins Theatres.
“This is the first full-feature film I've directed,” said Ryan Wood about the comedy flick. “I've worked and been on the set of TV commercials, shorts and other independent films, but nothing to this magnitude.”
According to writer Chris Koenig, the movie revolves around two longtime friends Vaughn (portrayed by Koenig) and Larry (portrayed by Wood).
Vaughn is a “devout hypochondriac” and Larry a “hapless and perpetually single romantic.”
After a chance encounter with a stranger, the two are transported back through time to the 1800s. They find themselves in a town in the Old West where they face many challenges, including an “ill-tempered gunslinger.”
Terrified by change and even a hint of danger, Vaughn and Larry are given a task that must be completed within two weeks or risk never returning to the present.
“It was pretty much laughter from beginning to end,” Wood said about shooting the movie. “There are a lot of moving parts when you shoot a film, and it can be very complicated, and the stress level can really build. But then something hilarious would happen.”
The process of creating the film began when Wood grew “tired of just dreaming about being in the film industry” and “finally approached one of my oldest and best friends, Christopher Koenig, and began to share my dream with him. I told him that we should make a movie. He immediately began to tell me that it had been a lifelong dream of his as well.”
In his full-time job, Wood serves as pastor for Trinity Christian Center in Yuma.
At first the two just laughed about the idea, thinking it was just wishful thinking. But then “a few months later, we were on the phone coming up with ideas for our company name and our first script. It's been full steam ahead since then.”
They decided to name their company Four80 Vault Films.
Wood said he enjoyed a great working relationship with Koenig during the entire process.
“Chris and I collaborated on every aspect of the story from its inception. We grew up together and have a long, shared history. So much of what happens in ‘The Debacle' was born directly from our experiences over the last 30 years.”
Wood did not attend film school and has no formal training in the field. Instead he has “spent a lot of time educating myself” by studying movies.
“Every time I watch a movie, I use it as a study guide on how other directors present their films. Each director has a different feel and way that they like to portray a story. I, of course, am in the beginning stages of learning my craft and hope to be a great director some day.”
Before the two could begin filming, they needed to recruit a cast and crew.
“It wasn't until we began shooting that we realized just how blessed we were to have such a wonderful, seasoned, dedicated and competent cast of characters. The dynamic of working with them was an absolute delight. As cliché as it may sound, we became like family immediately.”
That crew included Yuma native Brett Frame, who was the film's director of photography. Wood's brother, Steven Wood, produced the music for the movie at his studio in Wake Forest, N.C.
Filming began in June 2011 and was completed after about two months. The scenes in the present era were filmed in Indiana and Kentucky, while the scenes in the past were filmed in Arizona.
“Because of the many scene locations, we were constantly flying back and forth from Arizona to Indiana,” Wood said, noting the two locales gave a good contrast to a film that “needed going from modern times to the Old West.”
In Arizona, the filming took place at Gammons Gulch Movie Studio in Benson, the Mescal Movie Set and the Old Tucson Studios.
“We had the privilege to shoot on some of the same sets as ‘The Three Amigos,' ‘The Quick and the Dead' and ‘Tombstone,'” Wood said.
“It was quite overwhelming at first knowing that we were on the same sets of those great movies, where some of the greatest actors and directors of all time had worked. It's an experience that I'll never forget.”
Wood says he is “extremely pleased” with the final version of “The Debacle,” but as a perfectionist will always ponder about what could have been done differently.
“No matter how well I do something, I can always see how it could have been done better. I think any great actor or director feels that way after finishing a movie.”
Wood added that he's excited for his movie to be shown on the big screen in Yuma.
“It's one thing to have your film on the big screen and it's another to have it playing in your hometown. If I'm being truly honest, I'm also a little nervous. I hope that this film brings as much laughter and joy to those who watch it as it was for us to make it.”
The premiere is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Harkins Theatres in the Yuma Palms shopping center. Tickets are $8.50 each. To view the official trailer or to purchase tickets in advance, visit www.TheDebacleMovie.com.
Even before “The Debacle” hit theaters, Wood and Koenig were planning their next film.
“You can plan on seeing more great films in the future from Four80 Vault Films,” Wood said.
Chris McDaniel can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6849.