When Dave Boyle was putting together his first film “Big Dreams Little Tokyo” back in 2006, like most independent filmmakers, he wound up casting most of his friends. Still, he was careful to leave a little money to add professionals in smaller roles, which he filled with veterans such as Pepe Serna, a staple of shows such as “Hill Street Blues” and “Miami Vice.”
“When you have a guy like that on set, everyone else raises their game,” says Boyle, who promised Serna that he’d cast him one day as a lead in one of his films. “Pepe’s had a long and successful career, but I always wanted to give him a chance to play a leading man instead of being the colorful side character who shows up in a handful of scenes. He has the gravitas and the magnetic screen presence to pull that off.”
Sure enough, Serna is one of the stars of Boyle’s latest film “Man from Reno,” accompanying many familiar faces in the community of actors that the filmmaker has cultivated over the years. But just as Serna had to have faith that Boyle would come through for him, Boyle is hoping others will place the same trust in him to complete his first murder mystery, turning to Kickstarter to raise funds to complete post-production before an August 20th deadline.
While fans of the filmmaker may consider this in itself a mysterious change of pace following the back-to-back romantic comedies with singer/songwriter Goh Nakamura (the delightful “Daylight Savings” and “Surrogate Valentine”), Boyle and his writing partner Joel Clark have actually been working on a darker story for a while, first completing a Japanese-set thriller called “Komorebi,” which attracted interest but proved too expensive to pursue, before the duo turned their attention to a smaller-scale potboiler in a place they knew well – San Francisco. With the Bay Area in mind, the pair came up with a story that follows two people who have recently endured a disappearance – one, a small-town sheriff (Serna) who is involved in a car accident and can’t locate the victim after he’s been taken to the hospital, and another who is a Japanese mystery writer (Ayako Fujitani), who enjoys a fling with a fellow foreigner (Kazuki Kitamura) while on her book tour in San Francisco before he abruptly goes missing.
“I’ve been hoping to try my hand at the mystery-thriller genre for a long time,” says Boyle, who has been working on the film for the past year and completed shooting in May. “It’s by far and away the genre I enjoy the most as a viewer.”
That affection clearly shows in the footage that Boyle has unveiled in conjunction with the launch of the film’s crowdsourcing efforts. Setting the mood with gorgeous yet ominous cinematography from “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” lenser Richard Wong, the evocative sizzle reel hints at the many surprises in store for audiences when the film is expected to be completed in early 2014, should the campaign be successful. Although Boyle is tight-lipped to protect the film’s twists and turns, he was more than willing to reveal one he’s particularly proud of.
“My old friend Hiroshi Watanabe plays a supporting role that’s way different from his past work, and he really knocked it out of the park — I think people will be shocked when they see him in this movie,” Boyle says of his “White on Rice” star. “A good mystery story relies on memorable characters, and everyone in this film brought a unique energy to it — the movie has a flavor all its own.”
Now, Boyle just needs to finish it with a little help from the crowd, excited as much by the possibility of reaching new audiences as he is by being able to get through the post-production process sooner.
“I hope people won’t feel like I’m asking them to just give me money,” says Boyle, noting that digital downloads are available as rewards. “My hope is that people will find the story and the sneak-peek footage compelling enough that they’ll want to see the final product.”