Posted 6/29/12 – On Sunday, June 24th, a special screening of the award winning feature film Not That Funny was held at the Sierra Madre Playhouse as a thank you to the town, its residents and its businesses. Mary’s Market, The Buccaneer, Sierra Madre Pizza Company, Bean Town Coffee House and Four Seasons Tea Room all provided food and beverage for the enjoyment of the attendees of the special event. “We had the screening in Sierra Madre to thank the businesses that let us film in their spaces,” said writer/director Lauralee Farrer, “the Four Seasons, Mary’s, Bean Town, the hardware store, Arnold’s, oh my gosh that guy was so welcoming and hospitable and easy going… They brought food and kept thanking us for inviting them, as if we were doing them the favor. ..that’s the kind of relationship you want to have.”
Ms. Farrer is no stranger to Sierra Madre. She has lived on Alegria for eleven years. This is the third film she has made in town, the first two being documentaries that she also produced. Laundry and Tosca about a woman’s lifelong journey to become a professional opera singer, and The Fair Trade about a woman who makes a bargain with God seeking a “a life worth living.” Ms. Farrer was kind enough to sit down with us for an interview, and we’ll be publishing that soon, in a separate article. Much of this film was shot in Sierra Madre, and unlike most productions that are filmed here, which feature a fictional town name, this film claims Sierra Madre as its location, with one of the main characters
at one point noting of the female lead, Hayley, that Sierra Madre is where she grew up, and “such memories have unimaginable power.”
Hayley is played by Brigid Brannagh, one of the stars of Army Wives on the Lifetime Channel, and formerly of CSI. Tony Hale, of HBO’s Veep and formerly on Arrested Development is the male lead, Stefan, a single man who rents an apartment from Hayley’s grandmother Toogey, played by K Callan of TBS’ Meet the Browns. Ms. Callan also played Dean Cain’s mom in Lois and Clark, the New Adventures of Superman. Toogey (who in the movie lives on Alegria, in the real life home of writer/director Farrer ), is a widow facing declining health and mental capacity. Hayley, who has been out in the business world trying to become “herself”, returns home for a visit with Toogey, and must confront the reality of her Grandmother’s situation, to the chagrin of her overbearing boyfriend O’Neill, played by Timothy V. Murphy (Sons of Anarchy, Criminal Minds). Stefan, who has heard Toogey talk about her granddaughter for years (“I’ve heard a thousand stories”), is immediately smitten. Until now, Stefan had been, in his words “alone, but not lonely.” The rest of the movie revolves around his attempts to woo her, even attempting to be funny because he thinks that’s what she wants, and discovering that he’s really “Not that Funny”. Along the way, all three characters confront truths about themselves that they might prefer not to face, ultimately coming to understand the people that they really are.
But for Sierra Madre residents, the film’s locations will undoubtedly be the stars they recognize most. Mary’s Market, Bean Town, Arnold’s Frontier Hardware, St. Rita’s, and Moe’s Automotive all have multiple scenes in the movie, with Mary’s Market even being cited as a daily stop for Toogey, as well as the setting of a dinner date for Stefan and Hayley in a pivotal scene. The beautiful patio of Four Seasons Tea Room with strings of lights overhead, is the site of another pivotal scene in the movie featuring Stefan and his good friend Kevork, played by John Kapelos, probably best known for his work in three John Hughes’ films, The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles and Weird Science. St. Rita’s is shown in several scenes, both in semi-distant shots which display its dramatic architecture and in closeup shots of its stained windows; there’s even a shot of the plaque commemorating its construction. The Buccaneer is also featured a couple of times, along with Sierra Juice, and there are numerous outside shots of Alegria, Baldwin Ave., Kersting Court and Sierra Madre Blvd.
One of the scenes featuring Kersting Court is a melancholy reminder that nothing in life is permanent, as the pepper tree that stood for more than a hundred years in Kersting Court has been removed since the film’s shooting. Another reminder: Sierra Madre Books and Harlequin Gallery are both seen in the movie, neither of which remains in business any more.
Nora Graham of Sierra Juice is seen as herself in a couple of scenes, as is Moe Marshall of Moe’s Automotive (albeit as an employee, not the owner). Nikki Stevens, bartender at the Buccaneer, and Carolyn Dapper of Mary’s Market also appear briefly, as does Sierra Madre’s adopted favorite dog, Squirrel (yes, she made the credits), sitting in the lap of Buccaneer patron “LA Times Bob” Woolson.
Not That Funny does not yet have a distribution deal, but hopefully the positive response it is receiving in film festivals will help to change that, with the film having won audience awards in two of the three Festivals in which it has been shown. It won the Audience Award, Best US Film Feature Award at the 2012 Newport Beach Film Festival, and the Audience Favorite Award at the Rainier Independent Film Festival. It is scheduled to be featured at the Fandana Film Festival at Huntington University in Indiana in August, and at the Port Townsend Film Festival in Washington, in September.