Fresno's Travis Cluff went on the Sept. 2, 2009, edition of the ABC competition show "Wipeout" with hopes of winning enough money to help him recoup financially after being pulled into a Ponzi scheme. The $50,000 won helped him pay off bills.
He also got a bonus: The TV appearance sparked a new venture.
Cluff is writer, director and star of the locally produced feature film "Gold Fools." The world premiere is 6 p.m. Friday at the Clovis North Performing Arts Center, 2770 E. International Ave. A second screening is at 7 p.m. Saturday at the same location.
"Gold Fools" joins "Showboys," "Firefall," "Finding Hope Now" and "Bigfoot's Wild Weekend" as locally made movies that have held premieres here since April.
"I know it sounds like the most insane idea to make a movie. But, when I was on 'Wipeout,' I realized how much fun the cast and crew were having. They loved their work environment. I have acted since I was a kid and had a band, so I thought making a movie was something I could do," Cluff says.
The film looks at how normally positive Brian becomes more negative because of difficult economic times. As a quick fix, he persuades two friends to go on a search for gold in the mountains of Sonora. The only problem is something lurks in the water.
Cluff says the family-friendly movie, which has some funny moments, is basically a story about the importance of family in a person's life.
"Some of the movie is based on my own struggles. Even when we were losing all that we did, I didn't lose my family. They gave me strength," Cluff says.
His big challenge was to write a story that could be filmed under the super-tight budget of $9,000. Cluff's hesitant to talk about how little was spent out of fear the film won't be judged fairly.
"Some people hear you spend that little and they immediately dismiss the movie," Cluff says. "This film looks like we shot it for hundreds of thousands of dollars. The opening sequence looks like it cost more to shoot than the entire movie."
After he had his script, Cluff found locations where he could film at no cost. Scenes were shot in Pine Flat, Three Rivers, Fresno, Clovis and Sonora. He filled the cast and crew with friends and family.
After the local screening, Cluff will enter the movie into film festivals and then make it available on DVD.
Tickets for the two "Gold Fools" screenings can be purchased at goldfoolstickets.com. They are $8 in advance and $11.50 at the door.
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org
or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.