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Starring Role

Local filmmakers showcase Sonoma County in 'For What It's Worth'

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scene stealer  James and Leslie Simmons’ feature film was shot in Geyserville. - PHOTO COURTESY SIMZ PRODUCTIONS
  • Photo courtesy SIMZ Productions
  • scene stealer James and Leslie Simmons’ feature film was shot in Geyserville.

Coming to a film festival near you, Leslie and James Simmons' independent film For What It's Worth tells a love story set in Sonoma County. A suspense drama, the movie is about the relationship between a younger man and an older woman—but with a sinister twist.

The Simmons have owned Shoot Blue Productions for 12 years. The production company has produced a variety of films, commercials and documentaries, and now the couple enter the spotlight with their own original movie.

"We love what we do, but we wanted to go in new directions," says Leslie Simmons. "We wanted to focus on our own film," rather than make movies for other people.

For What It's Worth is set in Geyserville and uses the rural Sonoma County backdrop as an idyllic setting for the film. Leslie grew up in Geyserville, along with Marc Bojanowski, one of the writers of the film.

"Yeah, Leslie and Marc grew up together on a dirty road in Geyserville," James jokes.

"Dirt road," Leslie corrects. "It was a dirt road; it wasn't dirty."

When looking for a script, the couple was searching for something that had few locations and a small cast, but it was hard to find something that met their needs.

"So many scripts start with bank robberies," James says. The couple went through many screenplays before they turned to Bojanowski, who had been working on a story since 2014. When James and Leslie approached him, they saw a script they could work to their advantage and that could be filmed locally— a big savings in cost.

The rural Geyserville setting wasn't the only thing that drew in this dynamic filmmaking duo. They wanted their movie to be set in wine country, but didn't want it to be the main focus.

"We live here, and so it was much easier to film here, plus it's gorgeous," Leslie says.

The couple own most of the equipment that was used to shoot the film, and relied on interns and volunteers to produce it.

"I was absolutely amazed at what young people can do in this county, they are so talented," James says. "And they showed up for work every day. The amount of dedication in this county is really amazing."

With the limited budget and amount of resources, there were times when filming the movie was difficult, running into issues such as fighting the elements, working with a new crew and staying on budget.

"We took all the hardships of the film and worked together to create a story," Leslie says.

"Yeah, we made lemons into lemonade," adds her husband.

The duo plan to submit the film to both local and national film festivals. The film screens at the Alexander Valley Film Festival Oct. 22 at the Raven Theater in Healdsburg and at at the Sacramento Film & Music Festival (Sept. 6–11) on Sept. 8.

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