Second screening of film at Park Cinemas supports local nonprofits and raises awareness

PASO ROBLES — The community will have a chance to see and give feedback on a Central Coast-made film this month. On Thursday, May 23, Park Cinemas in Paso Robles will be the host to the second screening of “Hidden Creek,” which tells the story of an elderly rancher and his battle with dementia.

The screenplay was written by Cambria psychologist and writer Steve Brody, who was inspired to write the screenplay for “Hidden Creek” after his mother’s own battle with dementia. Many of Brody’s patients struggle with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

“There are a lot of people out there that either are going through this, have gone through this, will be going through this, and the family dynamic is real common,” Brody explained to Paso Robles Press/Atascadero News.

After seeing one of their smaller projects, Brody reached out to two local graduates of Coast Union High School in Cambria, Julian Mercado and Darien Jewel, to produce the film. The two have now graduated from film school and are working together in Los Angeles with their independent film production company Slabtown Studios — the name a calling card for what Cambria was once called. 

Avila, the director and producer for “Hidden Creek,” said they were ready to get straight to work when Brody approached them to produce the film. This being their biggest project yet, he said they first worked to update the script, which was written about 10 years prior.

2024 HIdden Creek 2
The crew films a scene from “Hidden Creek,” a locally produced film about an elderly rancher and his battle with dementia, at the Fiscalini family ranch in Cambria. Contributed Photo

“Something we grasp to and stuck to throughout the processes was the themes of family as well,” Avila said. “I think we as a company and as just filmmakers, we want to tell stories about family and just love and supporting each other.”

Seeing his words come to life on film was exciting for Brody.

“They’re [Avila and Jewel] a very competent young director-and-producer team. I was impressed with them as they made the movie,” said Brody.

“Hidden Creek” tells the story of Jimmy, an elderly rancher who fears he might be losing his mind and suspects his son and daughter of furthering his dementia so they can sell the ranch out from under him. However, the story did not originally surround the story of a rancher until a location for the film was chosen. 

A friend of Brody’s, Gloria Fiscalini, offered her family’s generational ranch as a filming location, inspiring the ranching and sustainability tie-in to the film.

“He [Jimmy] has a real loyalty and love of the land. Doesn’t want to see it carved up,” explained Brody of his main character and the secondary theme of the film — land preservation.

Jewel, who is director and producer of the film and partner in Slabtown Studios, said from start to finish the making of the film was a journey to narrow down the theme of the film. After talking to Fiscalini and securing the film location, everything clicked. The film would then also reflect the struggles farmers and ranchers face in today’s work to keep ahold of their land.

“And just preserving the legacy of the community. That’s when it struck with us that the film is about community, just in the same way that Slabtown is about honoring the community that we came from,” explained Jewel.

The film had its first screening at Hearst Castle earlier this year, where it debuted in front of a sold-out theater of over 400 people. We should also mention Steve Hearst’s support as an executive producer and investor was instrumental in “Hidden Creek’s” production.

“If it wasn’t for the support of the community and the support of a lot of the locals, I don’t think we would’ve managed to do it,” said Jewel.

In the screening’s audience was Alzheimer’s Association CA Central Coast Chapter Program and Education Manager Laura DeLoye.

After watching the film, DeLoye had an idea: “I just suggested that it would be a great pairing to have some outreach awareness in our community about supports for families, like what is being portrayed in the movie, that we have some things going on here.”

2024 HIdden Creek 2
The crew films a scene from “Hidden Creek,” a locally produced film about an elderly rancher and his battle with dementia, at the Fiscalini family ranch in Cambria. Contributed Photo

DeLoye connected with Barry Fisher of Blaze ‘N Bear Insurance Services in Paso Robles, who also has a show in KPRL. Together, they found a way to bring the film to Paso Robles as a second screening. The screening gives the Alzheimer’s Association an outlet for education and spreading the word of different resources available in the area for those suffering from the disease. Soon, DeLoye explained, everything snowballed from there. 

The film has become a collaboration between individuals with deep connections to Cambria and, furthermore, brought together organizations across the Central Coast, including the Alzheimer’s Association CA Central Coast Chapter, CAPSLO Adult Day Center, and the Cattlemen’s Association of SLO County Ag Education.

Paso Robles is home to one of the only adult day centers in the county. The Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo (CAPSLO) Adult Day Center offers adult day care for seniors with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia and respite for their family caregivers.

Given the films theme of ranching, DeLoye and her team wanted to find an organization that would help bring the ranching community into the fold. 

“So the Cattleman’s Association came in very quickly into our conversation as well to support this type of what has become a fundraiser and an awareness piece,” explained DeLoye.

The second screening at Park Cinemas has already nearly sold out, raising over $10,000 for the nonprofits.

“What we really wanted to do with the film, was kind of get more exposure towards dementia and towards these kinds of struggles that the family was going through,” explained Jewel. “Because as we were in development and pre-production, a friend of mine’s family was going through the exact same struggle with a grandmother who was passing away and then kind of the suffering from dementia and the family politics around that. We wanted to shed a light on that kind of struggle with this project”

The test screening is Thursday, May 23, at 6 p.m. at Park Cinemas in Paso Robles. This screening allows viewers to see the film and suggest changes they may like to see before its distribution.

“I’m hoping people walk away with a sense of the normal to be prepared for the different points of view that emerge when you have somebody that in the family that goes through some form of dementia and hopefully they learn a few things from the film that there’s a sensitivity to that, that they walk away with, with an increased love of the land,” says Brody of his screenplay come to life.

Brody exclusively told Paso Robles Press/Atascadero News of another screenplay he has written that Slabtown Studios will be bringing to the big screen. Inspired by his father’s right to die in a time when it wasn’t legal in California, “Final Decision” is currently in pre-production works.

“It’s about an anxious old man who has only a few months to live, which was my dad,” says Brody. “He had a diagnosis of late stage pancreatic cancer and basically there was nothing they could do except, you know, make him comfortable.”

The movie trailer for “Hidden Creek” can be viewed at hiddencreekmovie.com and tickets are available at parkcinemas.com

CAPSLO is the event’s sponsor and all donations and sponsorships will be divided equally among the local nonprofit organizations including the Alzheimer’s Association CA Central Coast Chapter, CAPSLO Adult Day Center, and Cattlemen’s Association of SLO County Ag Education.

To donate, visit capslo.org/donation-adc/ noting in the comment box at the bottom: Hidden Creek Fundraiser or write a check to CAPSLO with Hidden Creek Fundraiser in the memo line.

Feature Image: (From left) “Hidden Creek” Director/Producer Darien Jewel, James Henry Richardson (who plays Jimmy in the movie), and Director/Producer Julian Mercado Avila consult during filming in Cambria. Contributed Photo