The latest production from Oakhurst filmmaker Matt Sconce, “Altar,” will open with a red carpet ceremony Saturday, May 13, at the Crest Theatre in downtown Fresno. Cast and crew members will be in attendance. A large crowd is expected.
“Last time I held a premiere, 1,030 people showed up,” Sconce says.
“Altar” follows a group of former college classmates who get lost on their way to a college reunion being held at a camp in the Sierra. Their decision to spend the night in the wilderness leads to a discovery that puts all of their lives in danger.
Sconce has been showing “Altar” at a variety of film festivals and has collected 21 awards. He cannot reveal any details but says the movie is about to get a national release.
If that happens, it will be the second horror film produced locally. Warner Bros. distributed “The Gallows,” a very low-budget movie made by Fresno filmmakers Travis Cluff and Chris Loring, in 2015. Sconce says that success motivated him to finish “Altar.”
Work on the script for “Altar” started four years ago, but Sconce decided the timing wasn’t right to make the movie.
“After I saw what Travis Cluff and Chris Loring had done, I remembered I had this outline for a script about found footage. We decided to move forward and redid the outline,” Sconce says.
The “found footage” format of “Altar” and “The Gallows” was inspired by the massive success of “The Blair Witch Project” in 1999. The movie used jerky, hand-held footage to tell the tale of terror in the woods.
The style has been criticized because it often doesn’t make sense that someone would continue to film in the face of danger. Sconce worked out that problem by having the younger brother of one of the characters only being able to deal with the real world while looking through the lens of a camera.
‘Altar’ has collected 21 awards at various film festivals.
Sconce cast a mix of local and Hollywood actors for his film. He found Fresnan Jessie Parr through a local audition and cast him to play the younger brother.
“He was going up against actors with a lot of credits but he clinched the role with his audition,” Sconce says. “I wanted the cast to bond before filming and so we bused them all up from Fresno. I took Jessie down there so he could be with them.
“By the time they got to Fresno, they had worked out all their back stories and memories they all shared.”
Filming took six days spread out over several months. The first three days were filmed during the summer, with two more days of production after there was snow in the mountains. The last day was for filming in Fresno.
The cast and crew faced some wild moments.
“After a freak thunderstorm, we were all wet and cold and walking back to the car. When we walked across this meadow we saw a baby deer in the light of our flashlight. When the light panned away there was a mountain lion that backed into darkness,” Sconce says.
That’s not all. Sconce says a pack of coyotes sauntered through the campsite, the crew saw a bear and had a bobcat try to eat the company’s small dog.
Sconce is the chief compliance officer of the start-up company Movie Heroes and president of Movie Heroes Studios. He has written six feature screenplays and produced seven feature films. The past films that have been getting Sconce attention include “Stricken,” “FireFall: An Epic Family Adventure” and “Sleeper.” Sconce primarily uses locations in and around Fresno for his movies.
Rick Bentley: @RickBentley1