By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
A Yukon venue that has become accustomed to hosting weddings welcomed a Hollywood production company this week shooting a new movie about a talking kangaroo.
ARI Production LLC of Los Angeles, Calif. is at Blose Barn and Garden, 301 S Richland Road, for parts of two weeks for their production of the family-friendly film “Joey and Ella.”
Yukon’s Don and Julie Blose said they were more than pleased to offer their property since it’s a special occasion to have a movie shot in Yukon.
The Blose Barn and Garden, which features a rustic renovated barn and historic farmhouse on 10 wooden acres, has served as the perfect backdrop for many special occasions – like weddings, parties and other events.
Now it is providing the ideal setting for “Joey and Ella.” Cast and crew members are using the Bloses’ vintage wooden barn dating back to 1920 and a home built in 1915.
“We did some research initially and this was one of the first locations that we actually reached out to,” said executive producer Zeus Zamani. “We did research on-line looking for picturesque barns in the region. This came up.
“I reached out to Julie and Don. It actually was a very strange call for them. They’re used to having weddings, events and parties.”
They initially starting filming in March but production was delayed due to the COVID-19 outbreak so they had to head back to LA.
Zamani’s Los Angeles production company is working with many local crew members on their latest project.
The producer is grateful to return to the Blose property on Richland Road just south of Reno.
“They’ve truly been outstanding,” Zamani said. “Their hospitality and how accommodating they have been is exemplary.
“They have a fantastic property, obviously extremely picturesque. It works amazing for us and I heavily recommend it for any filming. It’s great because of the amount of space that we have, having the farmhouse and barn, and having access to parking.”
The executive producer gave a synopsis of his new movie “Joey and Ella,” a story of adventure and friendship.
“It’s about a kangaroo that gets separated from its movie,” Zamani related. “Through a series of events, the kangaroo gains some magical powers that enables it to grow much, much faster than naturally and also enables it to speak.
“By chance, it also becomes best friends with Ella (played by Jennifer Michele). An adventure ensues, as the bad guys try to get hold the valuable kangaroo that’s now able to speak.”
The formula is very similar to the classic Steve Spielberg movie, “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.”
Lead actress Michele, who lives in Los Angeles, has acted since she was 4 years old and has appeared in several television series and movie shorts.
SOME GREAT INCENTIVES
Directed by Stephen Shimek, “Joey and Ella” is utilizing the Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program administered by Oklahoma Film and Music Office.
Oklahoma is an attractive place for movie producers.
“The incentive that this state has is what really what brings us here, first and foremost,” Zamani said. “The rebate is very aggressive and it’s very straight-forward to work with the Oklahoma Film Commission. There also is an amazing skilled and talented crew base here.
“This is the fourth time I’ve shot in this state. I started coming out here in 2016 and did a couple horror movies.”
Zamani and his team shot the family friendly, robot movie “The Adventures of A.R.I.” last year in Tulsa. Shimek also directed that kids’ feature.
“We’re actually filming two movies back-to-back and will be here in the state all the way through the middle of July,” Zamani said. “The second movie that follows right after ‘Joey and Ella’ is called ‘CI-Ape’. It’s about a talking chimpanzee who is a CIA agent. It’s also fun, family friendly and for the kids. It’s all really good stuff and, obviously, heavily CGI (computer-generated imagery)-based.”
These latest movies are being shot entirely in Oklahoma, with scenes filmed in Yukon, Oklahoma City, Weatherford and Guthrie.
Another reason Zamani enjoys producing movies in Oklahoma is the welcome and support he receives from local communities.
“I’ve shot all around the world,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of projects around the U.S. and I’ve traveled a lot too. This area has been so supportive and accommodating, which is great because that’s what you need when you’re shooting in people’s homes and businesses, and having to shut down streets.”
BREADTH OF EXPERIENCE
Zamani has produced some 30 movies and television shows over the last 15 years.
He has diverse experience from the entire breadth of production and content creation.
A veteran of the music video industry, Zamani has produced over 400 music videos for artists like Drake, Enrique Iglesias, Snoop Dogg, Chris Brown, and Lil Wayne; and collaborated closely with major record labels.
Established since 2007, his company AZ Films also has an award-winning commercial division that regularly produces large scale national campaign spots for Fortune 500 companies.
Zamani produced his first film in 2010, an urban horror movie.
He produces movies across all types of genres.
His company is using some Oklahoma actors in “Joey and Ella.”
“We like to foster and help grow the industry here, so we try and bring on a lot of talented performers who are here,” Zamani said. “We also have some actors who are from LA and Texas.
“There’s always a need for extras and we’ve always welcomed it. We’re looking for extras of all ages, actually. We do work with a local casting director (Michelle DeLong) who actually handles the extras casting for us.”