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Production Notes from the Nowhere Nevada Movie

The story behind Nowhere Nevada and how production started begins in the mid-1990’s with Marianne Psota.  Marianne was a well-known, beloved Northern Nevada music promoter, who quickly met fiancé Nick Ramirez, also a local musician and promoter.  The two fell in love, continued forging the now existing underground music scene, and in 2000 Marianne began to write the Nowhere Nevada script.  She is the original author of this script, based on many years of underground music promoting. 

Marianne finished two complete drafts by November 2003, and then unexpectedly died in her sleep one evening.  She passed away from a still unidentified airborne illness.  Quoted in the Reno News and Review, Ramirez says “It’s truly cathartic, but on the emotional side it brings up a dump-truck of dormant emotions, when Mary passed, I promised I would turn this into a movie…… It’s really hard to  commit yourself emotionally when it can be disappointing or turn around and not happen at all.“

What remained in our small community was an enormous sense of loss, which is typical on the passing of a good-natured, spiritually blessed person.  While the script remained as a long-term project, Ramirez began a bi-annual community benefit (two-day) musical extravaganza (Marianarchy) in 2004, with ALL proceeds going over 20+ individuals/families in need and organizations like the Reno Cancer Society, The Solace Tree, Bruka Theatre, Sierra Arts Foundation and The Epilepsy Foundation to name a few. 

Commonly featuring over 30 local bands, LOVE is the primary, common emotion found at every Northern Nevada Marianarchyevent since 2004.  It’s also how production on this film got started (8 years later) because both Marianne and Nick were/are so well regarded for their talents and empathy towards humankind in general.  Only through huge community/peer support was it even possible to bring this project to true pre-production in early 2012. 

Filming a true look at the underground music scene in Northern Nevada wasn’t easy.  Operating under full disclosure with sponsors, donations were hard to come by in a sure to be Rated-R feature film about underground music, drugs and the darker side of the city.  It would have been easy to accept those low-hanging donations like Casinos, Resorts or the Sporting Teams, but it’s just not that kind of film.  This isn’t about tourism, or gambling, it’s about what underground Nevadan’s do on a daily basis, that you most certainly WON’T commonly see.  The high level of regional representation in this film is simply amazing.  It’s very real.

While this production seemed charmed in so many ways, there were a few near disasters.  Using a 1965 Ford Galaxie as our prop car was rife with mechanical issues, including the need for three starters, two ignition switches, electrical rewiring and multiple oil/fluid changes due to the heat of the Nevada desert.  Shooting a film about the “Middle of Nowhere” was logistically challenging and included six total days at a generator run “hotel” called Middlegate, roughly three hours east of the Reno/Sparks area.  The very same location Stephen King wrote the novel Desperation, it’s literallyhours away from anything!  Except being somewhat safely located in the middle of a Navy bombing range.   

“When it came to law enforcement, they showed upmore than once on this mostly guerilla shoot,” Sutherland confides.  “Beyond the smaller instances like our scenes of a flaming (fire) stand-up bass player in downtown Reno, an escort getting kicked out of a car, and constant, flagrant public drug use, it’s really hard to shoot a film with so much happening INSIDE a car, in public, without everyone assuming we were shooting an adult movie!”

Shooting on tribal lands in Northern Nevada was an issue as well, as we were escorted to different tribal holding areas more than once; waiting to explain to local law enforcement we were actually doing nothing wrong, and definitely nothing illegal.  As respectful as we were, we simply all agreed to disagree about their point of not capturing their land on film.  There’s a lot of desert in Northern Nevada, a lot of recreational land, even public lands to do our explosion scene, using legal explosives and no permits.   Northern Nevada’s pretty cool like that, it’s perfectly fine to be a lunatic, as long as you are not hurting anyone else or interfering with anyone’s right to live peacefully and safely.

Because of our limited budget, we had an extremely optimistic shooting schedule.  Our first day consisted of shooting over 26 straight hours.  The next twenty seven days were not really much easier, as we commonly joked and wondered if we were really shooting a film about Northern Nevada sunrises and sunsets.   

Then came the annual event……. Burning Man!  Our entire cast and crew are heavily involved in this local art and music desert festival.  From upper administrators, to architects, to large-scale artists and guests: we luckily knew the event would completely bring our production to a halt.  In retrospect, this really gave us invaluable time to analyze what we had, make some great changes to the production script and be truly better off than we would have been otherwise.  Except for the prop car, that didn’t quite fare as well, being a Burning Man staple over the last decade.  It needed some work! If you look closely at the door of the Galaxie 500, you will see a Department of Public Works logo, which represents this organized group doing unbelievable, vast work for the Burning Man event.

It’s all interrelated you see.  In Northern Nevada, we aspire to leave no trace.  This is particularly evident when shooting in Hazen, Nevada, when our Executive Producer spent all day picking up cigarette butts.  Why?  Not only was it the shop owner’s main concern, but because we truly care.

Beyond the money we spent throughout Northern Nevada, what we truly left behind was joy, understanding and a long-term sense of caring.  Once the story was fully understood, and how it came to be, support was seemingly infinite!  Not so much financially, but commonly through donated props, logistics, fundraising prizes and an enthusiastic work force more than ready to put in very long work days.  This is all of our tributes to Marianne.  It’s for healing, for closure, for sharing and for our community.  We truly hope you enjoy it.