Home Hollywood Locally made film about failing in Hollywood opens in Santa Rosa

Locally made film about failing in Hollywood opens in Santa Rosa


One Google engineer once estimated that more than 129 million books have been published since the printing press was invented. There is no readily available scientific data on how many of these are “how to succeed” books in various categories, but informal guesses are a whole lot.

According to some estimates, aspiring actors have a 2% chance of making a big splash in Hollywood. Successful people don’t need self-help books or videos, but where do the 98% find support?

The answer lies in “How to Succeed and Fail in Hollywood,” a locally produced independent film that premieres Saturday, July 16 at the Summerfield Cinemas in Santa Rosa.

Basically, the remedy is to keep working as long as you can. If one thing doesn’t work, try another.

Produced on an “ultra-micro budget” by writer, producer, director and star CM Conway, the film was shot over 22 days in December 2019 in Conway’s hometown of the West, as well as in the Greater Bay Area and Los Angeles. The last scene was shot in January 2020.

“This is the first public screening,” Conway said of the July 16 premiere. “Throughout the pandemic, I’ve spent time editing the film myself and learning how to do it.”

In early April, the film had a private screening for the cast, crew and their friends.

The one-hour, 54-minute film recounts the misadventures of Conway’s aspiring actress Ellie. East Bay actor Adrian Gilbert co-stars with her best friend Ben, a gay, Latino would-be actor.

“My husband, Eduardo M. Cuevas, is of Mexican descent, and he really helped with every aspect of the story and the authentic cultural elements of the character Ben,” Conway said.

The film is based on Conway’s personal experience. She spent 10 years acting in Los Angeles without becoming a star. Instead, she works as a children’s entertainer at birthday parties and other events.

She also worked as a waiter and telemarketer to make ends meet. She then developed live storytelling and interactive folklore programming for children in the library. She is busy but also frustrated.

“It was crazy, I moved out of Los Angeles, went back west and started writing, just to get it out of my system. I never got my dream,” she recalls. “I wrote an unpublished novel that turned into a screenplay.”

Conway uses her own experiences and those of those she knows to construct a storyline that she finds true, interesting and inspiring.

“People shared their own stories,” Conway said. “We want it to connect with people. People can connect ideas to pursue careers.”

Once written, the project became a grassroots effort, for which she recruited a diverse cast and crew, including women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

One contributor was Los Angeles singer, songwriter, and guitarist Hope Levy, who grew up in the Bay Area and whose songs appeared in movies. She played “Mom” in the Netflix series “Boss Baby”.

“We collaborated on the movie’s original song, ‘My Best Friend (Mi Mejor Amigo),'” Conway said.

Others working on the film include cinematographer Lisa Stoll and sound specialist Daniel Hess.

“It’s a feminist-led film, so it really represents the unrepresented,” Conway said.

Local filming locations include Western Art Center, Hazel Restaurant, Missy Girl and Twig Art and Garden, all in the West; Mudd and Gold in Bodega; Dinucci in Ford Valley; Ravens Performing Arts Theater in Healdsburg; Marin’s Laughing Tiger Studios; and Mama Dog Studios in Oakland.

“Backdoor Costumes in Santa Rosa helped design the costumes and provided the filming location for the film, which also featured owner Christy Huish,” Conway said. “We’re also shooting in Los Angeles, including in front of the Hollywood Sign.”

The July 16 premiere included a question-and-answer session, which Conway was enthusiastic about.

“The audience can ask me any question,” she said.

As a fundraiser for the film’s continued release, the event will include a raffle for artisan-made items collected for the event.

You can contact staff writer Dan Taylor at dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5243. Tweet @danarts.

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