By WALLACE BAINE | Santa Cruz Sentinel
PUBLISHED: June 1, 2016 at 12:00 am | UPDATED: September 11, 2018 at 12:00 am
That phrase “independent filmmaker” has been thrown around a lot in recent years to the point where it’s lost much of its meaning. But that term was invented for people like William “Bill” Scherer.
His new film “House on Rodeo Gulch,” which will be shown Saturday at the Santa Cruz Film Festival, was conceived, written, shot and edited by Scherer who admits he knew little about the art and craft of filmmaking before he started the project. But after five years of wrapping his life into the film, he says “now I have a master’s degree in filmmaking.”
“Rodeo Gulch” is a tense psychological thriller that will be shown Saturday at the Tannery World Dance and Cultural Center, as part of the SCFF. It was shot entirely on location in Santa Cruz County, most of it at a beautiful mountain house (which is, for the record, not on Rodeo Gulch Road).
The film stars actress/model Chanel Ryan (“Dead Sea”) as Denise, a military wife who moves from Texas to a picturesque California home with her teenaged daughter Shani (Megan Jay Simrell). The dream home soon begins to reveal some disturbing quirks, which may have to do with the family’s eccentric new neighbors, a strange clergyman and his assistant.
The film is not a supernatural story, said Scherer. It’s designed to be an atmospheric thriller. “It’s like ‘Jaws,’” he said. “You know, you keep seeing what the shark does, but you never see the shark until the end.”
Before taking on the role of filmmaker, Scherer had been engaged in other activities, including commerical aerial photography and motorcycle racing (He set a new land speed record on a motorcycle in 2008 at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats).
He had had some experience in the film industry as a writer and an actor in his youth. But when he came up with the Hitchcockian plot for “Rodeo Gulch,” he said he looked at it as just another side project. Then, he pitched Ryan, a well-known face in B-movie circles in Hollywood. When she committed to star in the film, Scherer decided to kick up his game, investing in better equipment and setting about to make a feature film.
He was amazed at the level of talent he was able to attract. Actors Jaye Wolfe and Adrian Torres, who play the bad guys in the film, “will blow you away.” And he calls young Megan Jay Simrell, his avenging angel in the film, “the next Jennifer Lawrence.”
After long work for the script, a harrowing shoot that lasted much longer than anticipated and many months of post-production and promotion, Scherer is finally ready to launch “Rodeo Gulch” on the film festival circuit, with an eye to getting a distribution deal.
He’s also interested in getting back to his first love, writing, and he’s interested in selling some new scripts, a gritty, corrupt politician drama, and a comedy center on golf titled “Fore!”
Though he has said that he would never do an indie film again from scratch, “Rodeo Gulch” represents his approach to filmmaking. “The people at the film schools always tell you, ‘Start with a short (film).’ Well, I always think big. Why shoot a short? Shoot a movie.”