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Local Indie Film Premieres In Oakdale
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Escalon native, Tony Conte, on the set of his independent short film The Revenant, which premieres to the public on Tuesday, Oct. 27, at Bocelli’s Italian Ristorante in Oakdale. The Red Carpet event starts at 6 p.m. Seating is limited and tickets are selling fast. Call Joey Huestis at 614-9135 to reserve yours today. - photo by Photo Contributed

In April of 2008, Escalon native and EHS graduate Tony Conte came to Rio Arts’ Board of Directors looking for support to make an independent short film he wrote, called The Revenant, for his senior thesis project. At the time, he was a Digital Motion Picture student at Cogswell Polytechnical College, where he graduated with high honors in May of this year.

Rio Arts saw the value of his project and elected to get on board — with the young filmmaker directing — and underwrite his film.

Artistic Director for Rio Arts, Joey Huestis, took a producing role, while Stacy Blevins, Director of Theater, wound up playing a pivotal role and serving as the film set’s “mom.”

Auditions were held with many local actors, most affiliated with Rio Arts, and filming took place June 26 through 30 at locations in Oakdale, Riverbank and Escalon.

Now, with the film finished, it’s ready to be premiered and getting it ready for sale and sending it off to the film festivals.

Conte and Huestis felt the best place to premiere it is where much of it was filmed — at Bocelli’s Italian Ristorante in Oakdale.

“Why not premiere it where it all began?” said Conte.

Huestis took a proposal to Cromwell and Helen Zaya, the owners, and they were delighted at the prospects of being a part of it all again and seeing the cast and crew once more. Both Helen and Cromwell — as well as many locals who served as extras — are in the film, as well as the beautiful murals that don the walls by Manteca artist June Sand.

The public is invited to be a part of this event.

“These three little towns have a lot to be proud of,” said Huestis. “We’d like to see city officials of all three towns, as well as independent film fans in general, come and celebrate with us at this event and show their support for local independent filmmaking.”

This is the third independent film Huestis has worked on in the Riverbank, Oakdale and Escalon area over the past two years, she said. She sees an opportunity for these cities to establish film commissions and attract bigger budgeted films to this area and provide jobs for people in the industry.

Starring Oakdale actor Anthony Vasquez, The Revenant takes you to the symbolic abyss of the subconscious mind. Nate Herrera (played by Vasquez), a morose workaholic medicating himself to sleep at night, is unwilling to face the reality of his life and becomes forced to do so through the dreams of a single evening.

Throughout his dreams, he is unable to find his girlfriend Katie (played by Oakdale actress Sydney Laurel) as he jumps from past memories of high school to those of recent times. As he is worked by his own subconscious to accept the truth, Nate is forced to come to terms and accept his life’s harsh reality.

The film is a dramatic insight into the dreamscape of the human psyche and is an emotional journey for one man as he overcomes the five stages of grief after his girlfriend dies.

The date for the premiere of The Revenant is Tuesday, Oct. 27 and will begin at 6 p.m. with a social hour and red carpet arrivals of the cast, including the writer - director, Tony Conte.

After introductions and once dinner is under way, the film will be rolled out at 7.30 p.m.

Bob Eden of Otter Bob Productions in Riverbank is screening the film, which was also edited by Conte.

Following the premiere, there will be a “Talk Back” with the director and the cast. Guests will be encouraged to ask the director and cast questions about the film, the characters they played, the technical aspects, or anything else that sparks the curiosity of those who are viewing the movie.

Laurel also wrote the film’s theme song, Whisper, and will perform it live for guests during the course of the evening, which will conclude with dessert and a viewing of the Blooper Reel (outtakes of the film) and a behind-the-scenes peek at independent filmmaking.

Tickets are $12 for General Admission and include a trip to the appetizer bar, dessert and a soft drink, and all the festivities of the night. VIP tickets are available for $25 and include a full dinner with two entrees to choose from, dessert and a soft drink, coffee or tea. Wine or beer is available, but not included in ticket price.

Tickets are already selling and are limited to only 94 guests, the capacity of the restaurant. You can purchase tickets at Bocelli’s, located at 1505 West F St., Oakdale during regular business hours or call Huestis at 209-614-9135 to make arrangements for mailing or will call. Conte also invites you to e-mail him with any questions about the premiere, the film or future film projects you may wish to help produce at

To learn more information about Conte and his film, The Revenant and view a trailer, visit

For general information about Rio Arts or this event, visit

Rio Arts is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit performing and visual arts organization dedicated to bringing the arts to life and helping people realize a dream or future in the arts in this community.