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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Indie film shows its UA ties

    Director, writer and producer Jeff Santo watches a scene from Jakes Corner being filmed outside Diane Ladds trailer from inside his tent.
    Director, writer and producer Jeff Santo watches a scene from ‘Jake’s Corner’ being filmed outside Diane Ladd’s trailer from inside his tent.

    Many small towns are simply a dot on a map, but Jake’s Corner, Ariz., is about to become so much more.

    Local filmmaker Jeff Santo chose the desert town south of Payson as the location for his next film, “”Jake’s Corner.””

    The fictional family drama follows Johnny Dunn (played by Richard Tyson), a UA Heisman Trophy winner who moved to Jace’s Corner after his parents died in a car crash. Johnny is forced to face his past when his nephew comes to live with him after his own family tragedy.

    Santo, the film’s writer, director and producer, began developing the script two years ago. The premise of it came from his own experience of when his grandparents died in a car accident.

    Santo then stumbled across Jake’s Corner during a meeting with a man inspired by his last film, “”This Old Cub,”” and knew it would be the place for his next project.

    “”For many people, this town is a rest stop,”” Santo said. “”But for those that live here, it is their rest stop for life.””

    The film shows the atmosphere of Jake’s Corner and the relationships among the people who live there.

    The characters might be fictional, but they also have real characteristics. Santo bases many of them on people he knows and has developed the characters around the town.

    Santo’s ties to Arizona played a big part in his decision to film in the state. His father, Ron, played 14 celebrated seasons for the Chicago Cubs, and the elder Santo often traveled to Phoenix for his spring training games with Jeff in tow.

    “”Arizona was always a home away from Chicago,”” said Santo, who officially made the Grand Canyon State home in 1992 when he moved to pursue writing.

    Santo includes many aspects of Arizona in the film, such as making Johnny Dunn a football player for the UA and including the well-known rivalry with Arizona State University.

    “”I went in between (about) which school Johnny was going to be from, and it just seemed he would go to the U of A,”” Santo said.

    Although the cast includes some well-known names, like Diane Ladd and Danny Trejo, Santo made sure to cast “”Jake’s Corner”” with Arizona actors. This includes the role of Spence (played by Colton Rodgers), Johnny’s nephew, which was chosen through an open casting call in the state.

    “”Jake’s Corner”” is Santo’s third independent film, which shows his preference for staying away from the control of Hollywood.

    The experience gained through the first two films has been necessary in understanding how the independent film industry works, Santo said.

    “”Independent films give you the control to make your film the way you see it,”” Santo said. “”But when you don’t have experience in the industry, it is easy to lose that control.””

    Co-producer Tim Comstock also believes that independent films have more appeal because they are more authentic.

    “”Big-budget films can be more general,”” Comstock said, “”where independent films are honest to life stories and seem more human.””

    It is this real-life type of story that Santo hopes will reach out to viewers. Producers plan to premiere “”Jack’s Corner”” at the Sundance Film Festival in January.

    But for Santo this is also a film to help those who are trying to make it in the independent film industry.

    “”I hope the film will show that independent films can succeed on another level and provide opportunities for other independent filmmakers,”” he said.

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