It’s a tale as old as time: aspiring filmmakers move to Los Angeles in hopes of fulfilling their starry-eyed Hollywood dreams; aspiring filmmakers watch as their starry-eyed Hollywood dreams get kicked, punched, and beaten down by the cruel reality of Los Angeles; aspiring filmmakers decide to make a film about people watching their starry-eyed Hollywood dreams getting kicked, punched, and beaten down by the cruel reality of Los Angeles. Ah, but how many of those tough-luck projects involve Milwaukee’s own Mark Borchardt? Now we’re talking.
Enter Shangri-LA, a new series from Milwaukee natives Drew Rosas and Nick Sommer. The first season of the series (clocking in at 2 hours and 20 minutes) makes its world premiere Friday, November 16 at the Oriental Theatre.
“My vision for Shangri-LA is to create a story that showcases both the promise and brutality of Los Angeles while exploring the human journey to realize one’s dreams,” Rosas says in a press release “I am passionately devoted to telling the stories of overlooked characters and presenting their hardships as a universally experienced struggle for survival and happiness.”
Rosas and Sommer both moved to L.A. a decade ago, and have since produced a handful of award-winning low-budget horror films (including 2010’s Blood Junkie, which was picked up by Troma Entertainment). For Shangri-LA, they put themselves in their characters’ shoes.
“I needed to create a production environment that functioned at street level,” Rosas says. “It was essential to work with a barebones crew so the production could exist by wandering the streets of LA with a small footprint—replicating the lives of the characters in the show. I embraced guerrilla filmmaking techniques that mirror the street survival skills utilized by our characters. My team hopped the same fences, found and drank free water from hacked city pipes, hid from authorities and always kept moving.”
Oh, and did we mention Mark Borchardt is in it? The iconic Milwaukee filmmaker plays the tarot-card-reading Dr. Marvin Nestor, which sounds perfect.
Friday’s screening begins at 6:45 p.m., and will be followed by a Q&A session moderated by Borchardt. Tickets are available here. Here’s a full synopsis:
After a nervous breakdown causes Nicky Kaplow to run away from his former life of excess as an infomercial personality, he has finally found his place of solace as a homeless homesteader. Nicky has disavowed the material world of his former life to live “off the land.” He needs to be resourceful to create a life of comfort in the streets, alleyways and hidden wilds of Los Angeles. When Nicky is not finding inventive and quirky ways to survive off the grid he is battling his inner demons and trying to win back his estranged girlfriend. In the process, Nicky meets a cast of characters who have sacrificed everything to chase after their dreams of fame and fortune. In the Tibetan realm, Shangri-La is a mythical paradise, a hidden utopia that may or may not exist. In the context of LA, Shangri-LA uses comedy to explore the hilarious absurdity of the Hollywood struggle, a paradise to some, an unobtainable goal to others. The show highlights the bizarre contrast that arises when one of the wealthiest cities in the world is also home to a poverty epidemic of drastic proportions.