Two men facing a midlife crisis decide to open a bowling alley and pizza place in Phoenix.
But it’s not the “Phoenix” that most people think of, said Director Gary Lundgren, who is on the production site of the film “Phoenix, Oregon.”
Though the film itself takes place in Phoenix — a town of roughly 4,500 just south of Medford along Interstate 5 — Lundgren said several areas across Klamath Falls best fit the vision for Joma Films.
“We’re not in Arizona,” Lundgren said during a filming break Friday afternoon. “There’s something sort of awry and different here. That feeling sort of fit the story idea.”
Lundgren, with the help of his wife and producer, Anne, has been spotted with crews all across Klamath Falls since the beginning of their 20-day filming period that started in early May.
“Phoenix, Oregon” has a production budget of less than $250,000 and could be released at several community film festivals as soon as 2019.
The crew hit the 15-day mark on Friday and plans to wrap up the rest of their production at the end of this week.
Aiming for the ‘strike’
Starring James Le Gros, Jesse Borrego and Lisa Edelstein, The premise of “Phoenix, Oregon” focuses on Bobby, played by Le Gros, and his friend, Carlos, played by Borrego, who decide to open up a run down bowling alley and fix it up in the town of Phoenix. Lundgren said that the cast brings decades of experience from television shows and other films to the table.
Lundgren, who has worked on several productions in Medford and Ashland, connected with members of Klamath Film before finding local investors who were interested in the project.
The crew’s desire for the feeling of small-town authenticity also drew them to certain areas within Klamath Falls.
“All those reasons just started piecing together,” Lundgren said.
Lundgren also describes moments of creating the set of an artificial mobile home split into two as one of the group’s more challenging tasks.
The hard work paid off.
“It’ll feel like we’re in a real trailer,” Lundgren said of the final shots. “It took a lot of time to get it just right.”
Authentic bowling history
A good portion of the film takes place inside of Hanscam’s Bowling Center, a location that has been a longtime staple along South Sixth Street just across from the Klamath County Fairgrounds.
Gary Lundgren said that Hanscam’s Bowling Center was the right location since it represents a picture perfect, older-style bowling alley. He also describes the business community as welcoming and open to letting crews film in several spots around town.
Barry Hanscam, owner of Hanscam’s Bowling Center, said he was excited to be a part of the film and add to the more than 60 years of history that the alley already has in the Klamath Basin.
Hanscam keeps several photos and newspaper clips framed around the front counters of the alley, which document everything from the center’s groundbreaking to a former Klamath Falls mayor having his assistants put on his bowling shoes before his first game.
“We’re still here and everything else around it has changed, basically,” Hanscam said.
Hanscam also remarked on what he felt would be positive effects for the business community as a whole. He also said that the Lundgrens’ crew were quite respectful of their surroundings inside of the alley.
“Klamath Falls needed another movie,” Hanscam said. “And this is going to help bowling.”
Bringing in business
Other locations across town have included the Daily Bagel and Italianna's Ristorante and Gelateria, in addition to a few other outdoor spots filmed along Main Street.
Jesse Widener, executive director at Klamath Film, said he and several others were excited for the opportunity to bring filmmakers back to the Basin. He described film as “an untapped industry in Klamath Falls,” mentioning that the 20-day production period had already resulted in increased business for restaurants, hotels and other shops.
Widener also said this was a good opportunity to increase the statewide visibility of Klamath Falls.
“It’s a small city, but it’s not a small town,” Widener said. “I think people are really surprised that there’s about 40,000 people here.”
Widener said he hoped to see effects similar to what Astoria experienced in terms of a tourism uptick following film productions over several years. The coastal town has been previously associated with work on “Goonies,” “Free Willy” and several other films.
“They’re not going just to experience the films,” Widener said. “They’re going to experience the flavor of the community as well.”