Filmmakers capture Valley for big screen

A Gardnerville landmark has been immortalized as the backdrop for a gritty film about two Reno brothers mixed up with the law.

On Tuesday, film crews converged on the JT Basque Bar and Dining Room to shoot exterior and interior scenes for the movie "The Motel Life," which is an adaptation of Willy Vlautin's 2007 novel by the same name.

"It should be released in theaters by the end of next year," said Ann Ruark, one of the film's producers.

Large recreational vehicles parked off Eddy Street carried the film's "talent," including actor Emile Hirsch, who starred in "Into the Wild" and "Milk," and Dakota Fanning, who played an abducted child in the Denzel Washington film, "Man on Fire," and played the daughter of Sean Penn in "I am Sam." Fanning's most recent work was in the wildly popular Twilight movie series.

"This whole area is well-represented in the book," said Ruark. "(The JT) is a piece of background that has a nice feel to it."

The scenes were supposed to take place in an Elko Basque restaurant, but the JT provided more than enough atmosphere.

"This is one of the writer's mom's favorite restaurants, and so they felt it was a really cool spot to shoot," said JT owner J.B. Lekumberry.

What is a familiar establishment in downtown Gardnerville was quickly converted into a movie set. Thick cables ran along the floor. Klieg lights, taller than a man, cast beams from otherwise darkened corners. In the center of it all stood a giant camera, which rolled and pivoted about during zoom and pan shots.

Within an hour, the team successfully had filmed a scene that lasted approximately 10 seconds. They took a break before prepping Fanning for the next scene.

Hours later, in the fading blue light of dusk, the same film crew set a car on fire near Genoa for yet another scene. On Wednesday, they were still filming in parts of Minden.

"By far, this is the biggest thing I've worked on, caliber-wise," said Mark Rosol, set production assistant. "The first thing I did was read the book."

Rosol grew up in Truckee before heading out into the big, famous world of movies.

"It's cool to be home, and to be home doing a project like this," he said.

On Thursday evening the Back on Track Inn in downtown Carson City became a movie set as crews spent four hours there filming scenes at the embattled motel at Washington and Carson streets.

Formerly The Downtowner, the business was closed down by the city a few years ago for poor living conditions and because police were frequently called out to the seedy motel.

New owner Betty Brinson took over the property in 2009 and changed its name.

The manager hoped Thursday that "The Motel Life," will change its image.

"It's good publicity for us," said George Vincent.


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