After five years in the making, a Murrieta producer and director premiered his first film, "The Penny," Monday night at The Movie Experience at California Oaks.
Producer and Director Victor Barba smiled and welcomed all to the red-carpet affair, with his wife Betty on his arm. In attendance were several of the 150-member cast, many of them local talent.
"The Penny," narrated by Maurice Benard of TV's "General Hospital," is a collection of six true life events, spanning from tragic deaths and illness to teens and parenting. The smallest form of money--a penny--appears in each scene as an omniscient observer. While each story is played out in different cities and within different families and decades, many of the stories merge together in the end--much in the same way a penny travels into the hands of unknowing strangers.
The film was co-produced by a Murrieta teacher, Carol Hernandez, who teaches theater and PE at Dorothy McElhinney Middle School. While Hernandez' true-life story of almost losing her daughter to a rare disease is one of six stories portrayed, Hernandez stars in another role as the mother of a teen played by Brittany Wright who is struggling with drug addiction.
Filmed locally, familiar landmarks such as the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve, California Oaks Sports Park, Monteleone Meadows and businesses in Historic Downtown Murrieta can be seen in the movie.
Parts of the movie were filmed more than two years ago, so some of the younger stars were anxious to see how it turned it, such as Shannon Ponn, 13, and Dominque Hernandez, 12. Shannon is a student at Thompson Middle School in Murrieta, and Dominique is a student at Dorothy McElhinney Middle School, where some scenes were filmed.
In the movie, Shannon and Dominique are best friends who get caught up in a lie to their schoolmates that they are the cousins of a professional baseball player. Appearing in the movie is former second baseman Matthew Howard, who played for the New York Yankees and then a Dodgers' affiliate team.
One of the story lines follows Barba's dream of writing music for films, a dream he discovered when he was 18. Acting as Barba's character's wife is Lourdes Colon, who has guest starred on TV's "Without a Trace."
"Everything happens for a reason," is a theme throughout, as are intermittent appearances of angels. Barba appears in one scene, but not as himself. Instead, he is bringing a message to a hurting teen.
Monday night was only the beginning of Barba's plans for the film. He will submit "The Penny" to the Temecula Film Festival, the International Family Film Festival and Latino film festivals.
"When I was 18 years old, I wanted to make music for films and everyone said I was crazy. I would say, 'one day.' Well, today is that day," Barba said.
Besides directing, Barba wrote and produced the soundtrack. His son, wife and daughter all appear in the film and had roles in its production.
Filmed mostly in English, there are some subtitled scenes shot in Spanish.
Southwest Riverside can see "The Penny" on the big screen for two more nights this week--at 6 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday--at . Admission is $10.
See a trailer of "The Penny" and photos of the red carpet event in the accompanying gallery.