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Strange Love

Santa Rosa filmmaker's new movie tugs at the heart, and head

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SHOOT TO KILL  ‘Hitman: A Love Story’ was filmed in San Francisco and Santa Rosa—at Adel’s diner!
  • SHOOT TO KILL ‘Hitman: A Love Story’ was filmed in San Francisco and Santa Rosa—at Adel’s diner!

A contract killer at the end of his rope and a mysterious woman running from her abusive past make for unlikely allies in Hitman: A Love Story, the new short film from Santa Rosa writer and director Jared N. Wright.

Hitman gets a world premiere on May 12 in Healdsburg. The benefit screening will include a pre-show reception and a post-show Q&A with Wright (pictured, at right) and his crew. All proceeds go toward entering Hitman into film festivals across the country.

Growing up near Chico, Calif., Wright dabbled in everything from art to music to filmmaking. "I like storytelling and visual storytelling," Wright says. "I just fell in love with film."

He moved to Sonoma County to attend Sonoma State University in 2005 as an English major. But after a few film classes, Wright sat down with an advisor. "I told him, 'I think I really want to make movies,'" he says. "He told me, 'Anyone can learn to do the technical aspect to a degree, but do you want to study how a story is told?' And, yes, that was intriguing to me."

Wright switched majors and graduated from SSU with a degree in art history that included an emphasis in film. From there, he found work at Santa Rosa's Videobrite, a production company on West College Avenue that does everything from DVD transfers of old media to full-blown video shoots and commercial work.

Over the course of eight years, Wright learned the ins and outs of production. He liked working at Videobrite so much, in fact, that he bought the company two years ago. Since then, he's been bringing it into the new era of digital media while working on his own film work.

For Hitman, Wright assembled a local crew of 15 people and hired Screen Actors Guild members for his cast. Starring in the titular role of the tormented hitman who puts a contract out on his own life is Tyler Dawson, who burst onto the Sundance scene in 2011 with the indie-hit Bellflower. Ashley Peoples, best known for the 2013 drama Locomotive, stars opposite Dawson. Wright also recruited veteran character actor Andrew Sensenig (Upstream Color, We Are Still Here) to play Dawson's handler.

Set in San Francisco, Hitman was shot entirely on-location, both in the city and in Santa Rosa. Discerning viewers will recognize downtown Santa Rosa diner Adel's as the location where Dawson and Peoples first meet, and the Palms Motel on Santa Rosa Avenue is also a prominent location.

Hitman is a striking and well-told short film that's as entertaining as it is enigmatic. Watching the movie, it's clear that Wright possesses a clear vision of the story he wants to tell, and the skill to pull it off.

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