It was both a pleasant surprise and a relief for filmmaker Ben Hernandez Bray when he realized parts of Calgary bore an uncanny resemblance to Los Angeles.
“Our location manager and I were at a place called Bite (in Inglewood) and out back there were these train tracks and this wall of graffiti near some fencing, and on the other side was a junkyard,” recalls Bray, who recently wrapped up a month-long shoot in town for his feature film directorial debut, El Chicano.
“I was blown away. I was literally taking photos and sending them to my wife saying, ‘Guess where this is at?’ She had thought I’d been sent photos from our locations person in L.A. I said, ‘That’s Calgary.’ And she was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ ”
Set in East L.A., the film focuses on twin brothers Diego and Pedro Hernandez, who take very different routes in life. While Diego becomes a well-respected police officer, Pedro falls into gang life and prison, eventually taking his own life. As Diego delves deeper into his brother’s death, signs start pointing toward murder and a connection to a mysterious supernatural superhero known as El Chicano.
It’s the first of a slate of five action films to be funded by Calgary-based War Chest Productions, founded by a group of investors to help bring more film work to the city.
El Chicano’s budget may be small, but production designer Amy Brewster and her crew have used it wisely, creating several authentic-looking indoor sets in the newly opened, 37,000-square-foot JR Studio soundstage in northeast Calgary.