An independent film company, Fuerte Productions, is filming part of their motion picture “Blessed Encounters”, in the Tri-Community. Fuerte Productions is based in Tucson and is owned by Alberto “Al” C. Ojeda. Alberto is the writer, producer, and director of Blessed Encounters. He also has a major acting role in the production.
Blessed Encounters is a story of murder, revenge, redemption and second chances in life. How a chance encounter with someone or something can turn around one’s life. Al says that the Tri-Community is a great place to film and looks forward to working more in the area with different film projects. He said that the community has been good to work with especially Al Gutierrez and Sun Life Family Health Center in San Manuel. “Al Gutierrez has been real cooperative and helping to promote the area. Some scenes in the film are being filmed in the Sun Life building and some of the staff will be in the movie including Al Gutierrez who plays a doctor.
Al Ojeda is a former law enforcement officer with the Pima County Sheriff’s Office. He has also had a novel published entitled “January 5th”. It is a mystery about the abduction of children in Mexico and South America and their indoctrination into the sex – slave trade. Al said that “the United States is the largest receiver of children for sex abuse”.
“The kids are channeled through Deming, New Mexico to cities around the country.” Al has been acting for 10 years in movies and commercials.
He has acted in some independent films and been an extra in other movies including the George Clooney movie, “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind”. He says he has acted in commercials for Food City, the state of Arizona anti – smoking campaign, and every casino in Tucson.
He has been in a re-creation episode of America’s Most Wanted and made a training film for the Border Patrol. Al said that he got into film making after becoming tired of auditioning for Mexican-American parts that were playing a criminal or other parts he felt were derogatory.
“We are past that now; we have people who are judges, doctors, policemen and community leaders.” Al said he felt that he could do better than this. “I decided to write this script.” He wanted to paint a more positive picture of Hispanics in popular culture.
Al’s co-producer is Laurence “Larry” Cripe. Al and Larry met at the police academy in 1973. They enjoyed each other’s company and became friends. After not seeing each other for years, they ran into each other at the funeral of one of their law enforcement friends.
They found out they both had an interest in film making and began working with each other. Laurence has been writing scripts for five years. He has won a few awards for his script writing. Larry has his own production company, Cripe – Ulichny Motion Pictures. He has always had an interest in films. He said that his mother worked as an usher at the old Fox Theater in Tucson so he spent time at the movies. He likes to watch old movies and studies them.
He is a former police officer and is a crash analyst and does accident reconstruction consulting work. Before he became a police officer, he worked at the smelter in San Manuel for Magma Copper. While working at Magma, he heard a story about “White Boots” who it was alleged haunted the underground mine. It inspired a script he has written and plans on producing. It is a horror film entitled “House on Moon Garden Terrace”
It is about a monster that lives in abandoned mines and terrorizes the local populace. Some of the scenes may be filmed in the Tri-Community area. Larry said for his horror film, he is looking for a person who is good in computer graphics and special effects.
Larry said that “the movie business is fun”. “We love doing what we do and get to meet a lot of wonderful people.” One of those people is Antonella Cassia, who plays the female lead Faith in Blessed Encounters. Antonella was born in New York City and was raised in Italy. Not only is she attractive but she is intelligent. She has a Phd. and teaches German and Italian at the University of Arizona.
She speaks eight languages. Antonella says she recently got into acting and has been doing local theater in Tucson and has appeared in three short films. “I always wanted to act “, she said. I saw the casting call for Blessed Encounters, went and auditioned and got the part.” “It is a nice crew, Al’s amazing”. “It is a nice environment to work in with a family atmosphere.” It doesn’t interfere with my job and I enjoy it.” Antonella finds acting interesting.
“I don’t think when I am acting”. She said that acting and learning another language are similar. There is a time when you are learning a language that you speak the new language without translating it in your mind. You think as well as speak in the language. In acting, she said “you become that person that you are playing”.
The character of Faith is an almost single mother whose abusive husband has been giving her problems. Through a chance encounter, she meets Alejandro “Alex” Castillo, a police officer who is dealing with the guilt of killing a young man who had murdered his Sergeant’s wife.
Sergeant Escalante is played by Al Ojeda. Alex Castillo is also going through a divorce, the death of his son in Afghanistan and a drinking problem. The chance meeting with Faith brings hope for the both of them. Just as they seem to be getting their lives together, one day at the same location where Sgt. Escalante’s wife was murdered, something happens…….
Alex Castillo is played by Mario Bedoya. When he is not acting, Mario is an entrepreneur. He owns Mozzo Events & Entertainment. Mozzo supplies DJs, musicians, dancers and other entertainers for events and parties.
Other members of the cast and crew of Blessed Encounters include Amelia Ronquillo who plays Alex Castillo’s daughter Emilia, Victor Schneider, an electrical engineer turned cameraman and 16 year old T J Coulter who acts in the movie as well as helps out on the set. T J has been acting in independent films and on stage for a few years now.
He has his own production company Booming Brightly Productions and will be producing and directing his own films. Local people in Blessed Encounters include staff from Sun Life. Al Gutierrez plays a doctor, Natalie Ivy and Lisa Rodriguez play nurses attending to Alex Castillo after he is seriously hurt and hospitalized.
Al Ojeda says Blessed Encounters is a low budget film. Nobody gets paid until they sell the movie. He hopes to market it in Mexico as well as in the United States. He sees a future for the Tri-Community and Copper Basin area as shooting locations for independent films.
“Everyone has been nice to us in the area”. Fuerte Productions will be filming a few more scenes in the area. Keep your eyes open for the crew, who knows, maybe they will need some extras and you can be in the movies.
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