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Lights, camera, Manteca...

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POSTED August 27, 2014 11:58 p.m.

It seems that everywhere you turned this summer, somebody was filming part of a movie right here in Manteca. Whether occupying a local gymnasium, hospital or grocery store, Manteca was a destination spot for several filmmakers. 

Phillip Vielma is a graduate of Manteca High, Class of 1993, who now plies his trade as a filmmaker in the SF area. Vielma who attended The Art Institute of California, San Francisco, made a return home to shoot his 20-minute short film “Jimmy.”

“‘Jimmy’ is a 20-minute coming of age story about a 17-year old kid who overcomes small-town bullies and an abusive mother to find a place for himself in his community,” explained Vielma. 

The story is set in a small river town in Northern California in 1985. 

“Manteca was the perfect backdrop for the film. I grew up in the Sequoia (Elementary) School area,” Vielma said, “and was able to utilize the old neighborhood in the shooting”

“Jimmy” was originally a short story Vielma had written during film school several years ago. At the encouragement of a former teacher, he decided to pull his resources and turn it into a short film.

“Jimmy” is the tale of a young man that lost his father and lives with an abusive mother. Spending his days tinkering away as a bikesmith, Jimmy finds friendship in the form of a new kid in town, Sammy. Sammy comes to town and draws Jimmy out of his shell. One day, Jimmy sees the town bully mistreat the girl next door, whom Jimmy has admired for years. Jimmy is encouraged by his new friend to put on his deceased father’s cherished clothing, and wear it like a uniform into battle with the bullies, creating a new sense of confidence and a new standing in his community. 

Vielma was able to draw many parallels between “Jimmy” and his own experiences as a boy in Manteca.

“Most of us growing up in our teenage and early adolescence years go through or witness similar situations, like the local bully, family, new friends and a environment that while visually beautiful can also be life consuming,” Vielma said. “I want to take you into a young man’s journey into manhood and discovering self-confidence.” 

Vielma also made use use of many old Manteca friends, incorporating Mantecans such as Joel Melena, David Beza, and dare I say it, myself into the movie. Places such as Anderson’s Mower and Bike, The Pub and Lounge, and Perrin Slough were used in the filming, as well. 

Vielma, who spent many years in the music industry as the singer for a successful touring band, is just as passionate about creating film as he was music.

“Through the eyes of my main character, I want to tap into a fragile soul; an individual who typically avoids confrontation and is bullied to the point of making a major decision to help a friend. I remember at this age situations seemed so stressful and unattainable. Through the help of a sidekick, self discovery and the dead-end feeling of his environment, I hope to touch the hearts of my audience through my main character,” Vielma said. “Jimmy takes us into a time that seems simpler, but will remind us of the common teenage circus.

“Jimmy represents the fragility in each and every one us, which is love, self discovery and courage. I want to expose bullying amongst youth and how it is traumatizing to an individual. Putting light on the life a child raised by a single parent and the importance of raising children in a positive environment.”

Vielma wanted to thank the City of Manteca for allowing his production team to film in his hometown, and all the businesses and friends that came together to make it a wonderful few months this summer. 

A funding campaign through Indiegogo has been set up to support post-production of the film and for sending out to film festivals around the globe: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/jimmy-a-coming-of-age-film-set-in-the-80s/x/8074884

• • •

Glory Days Past...

• JOHN COLDREN, Manteca High, Class of 1991: “I hadn’t played my freshman year, but at the encouragement of friends John Rhodes and Richard Alvarez I went out as a sophomore. I was a soccer/baseball player, and I’ll be honest – football conditioning was hell. It became clear that I wasn’t going to see much – if any – playing time. A few days before our first game I decided it was time to quit. With my practice uniform and gear neatly folded, I showed up to the field house and knocked on head coach Jack Thomson’s door. He was on the phone and gave me the ‘just a second’ finger. Alvarez saw me and knew immediately what was going down. He pulled me out of the office doorway, ‘Don’t quit this team. You will regret it forever.’ I remember thinking is he nuts?! The team had gone 9-1 as freshmen, but had lost its two best players — one moved, the other was playing varsity. Throughout conditioning, coach Thomson reminded the squad that at a coaches’ meeting he’d been told they be lucky to go 5-5 without those players. He would yell it during wind sprints, “5-5, gentlemen. That’s all they think you’ll be.” Why stick around for 5-5? But Alvarez sold me. “We aren’t gonna lose. You wanna be on this team. DO NOT QUIT!’ I went to my locker and suited up for practice. I ended up being the starting linebacker – for the ‘Dummy Defense.’ We spent our days being bashed by the first-team offense. It was brutal. Coach Todd Vick even gave the ‘Dummy D’ a name, The Comancheros. It gave us an identity, and made us become better players by year’s end. And by that year’s end we were 10-0, including a come-from-behind victory against East Union in the last game. As we celebrated in the field house, spraying sodas and snapping towel, coach Thomson made his way around giving everyone a hug. He got to me and looked me dead in the eyes, ‘Aren’t you glad you didn’t quit that day?’ I was blown away. He hadn’t made a mention of it all year. I was that close to throwing away one of my greatest memories. By my senior year I was starting at cornerback and wide receiver. We made the playoffs and blanked Oak Ridge 14-0 on the road, but it all started with a little encouragement in a sophomore field house.”

• • •

Isadores, we bid you adieu...

This week will mark the end of 25 years of Isadore’s Fine Dining serving the people of Manteca. Isadore and Laurel Fang created an atmosphere that will remain a Manteca icon for as long as this town exists. Many restaurants have come and gone — Ed’s Patio and Senor Campos – but none came close to what Isadore’s did during their time on Main Street. 

I wonder how many relationships started in that very spot? Or how many ended there? How many lifelong friendships forged over a “Hey, let me buy you a drink.” Where else could you get fried calamari and an assortment of culinary delights – as part of the free appetizers during happy hour. It was a fancy restaurant with a tight hometown feel.

In recent years Isadore and Laurel gave me the opportunity to stage comedy shows in the lounge. The room was perfect and grew into what many comics considered the best Comedy Room in the Central Valley. During a recent trip to SF, a comedy veteran of many years that has appeared on the old Johnny Carson Late Night Show asked me, “Hey what’s Isadore’s? I’ve heard you guys have a hot little room in Manteca. When can I play it?

And as it comes to a close, let’s all try to remember that the legend of Isadore’s will live in the friendships and memories that were made in a perfect little spot in Manteca. On behalf of the people of Manteca, I tip my fondue pot in your direction Isadore and Laurel Fang and say “Thank you.”

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