DANVILLE -- Move over, Joel and Ethan Coen. There's a new dynamic film duo eager to take Hollywood by storm.

Danville residents Kris and Mike Dorrance hope their movie's premier at Austin's South by Southwest film festival will launch their independent film, "Coldwater," into theaters and gain critical acclaim.

"It's been such a long road," Mike said of the film's creation. "I'm impressed with the perseverance. Kris didn't quit. It's been a passion. Now is the fun part. The first fun will be at Austin and hobnobbing with the other filmmakers. We're going to learn a lot."

The Dorrances first came across the "Coldwater" script in 2008 when Kris was looking for roles for their two sons, who were then into acting and modeling. Kris thought her boys would be perfect for the dark drama about the seedy side of wilderness camps that claim to rehabilitate troubled youth.

As often happens with films, funding and producers came and went. Time passed, and the Dorrance boys grew too old to star in the film. Yet Kris remained dedicated to the film's vision -- using drama to shine a spotlight on unregulated rehabilitation camps.

"We were still passionate about the film and passionate about getting this film made," Kris said.


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The Dorrances ultimately forked over their own money to buy the rights to "Coldwater," named for the wilderness camp where the main character is sent for rehabilitation.

"We acquired and purchased the script and the film rights," Mike said. "We started over from scratch. We convinced the writer to direct the film because he has the passion and the vision."

The Dorrances formed Skipping Stone Entertainment. Kris took over as producer, tackling all the work necessary to create the film. Mike, an insurance executive, signed on as executive producer and searched for funding.

Once a Southern California music executive stepped up as the investor a little more than a year ago, the dream to create "Coldwater" finally took off. The one-hour, 49-minute movie was filmed in 26 days last year in Malibu and Ventura.

"I'm really happy with the end product," writer and director Vincent Grashaw said from Southern California. "It was nice to have people who were on the same wavelength about what I wanted out of the movie."

Grashaw is grateful the Dorrances shared his vision and never gave up on what Kris calls "our little movie that could."

"They stuck through it with me over the years," Grashaw said. "It was great to have them, especially during the hard times when things would fall apart. They were among the few who put their money where their mouth is."

The film's overall expense is nearing a cool million dollars -- big money to regular folks, but chicken scratch in the movie industry. Kris opted for unknown actors not only to save money, but so that big-name stars wouldn't overshadow the intent to raise awareness for such an important topic.

"We were fortunate to find this little niche of kids who are amazing," Kris said of her actors. "We needed some star-quality faces that would catapult the film. Our lead actor looks like Ryan Gosling. He's brilliant."

Kris also saved a few valuable bucks by partnering with the Texas-based Boots Campaign. The nonprofit group that supports returning soldiers provided combat boots for the film in exchange for credit at the film's end.

"When (Kris) realized that the proceeds from our boot sales benefit wounded military, she got very excited to see if we could support her in providing boots for the movie for costuming," said Myra Brandenburg, Boots Campaign's community relations director.

In an odd way, the movie fits in with the Boots Campaign's goal of supporting soldiers and the freedom for which they fight.

"We have the freedom to have movies out there that tell a story that maybe is controversial," Brandenburg said. "We can do that without fear of going to jail."

The movie tackles the unregulated industry of wilderness rehabilitation camps for youth, which sometimes end up in the news for mistreating wayward youths and even causing some deaths.

"We're trying to shed some light on the (camps) that don't have any accountability," Grashaw said. "It's a gritty drama that takes its time. You follow a kid who's basically abducted and taken to one of these wilderness camps. It deals a lot with the kid's identity and why you are the way you are."

The film is neither preachy nor political, he said, but it's definitely "thrilling and a good story."

The camp experience "hardens (the main character) and then it softens him," Mike said. "I call it a more serious and modern "Cool Hand Luke." There hasn't really been a motion picture based on this stuff. These rehab camps are starting to get a lot of press. The timing is good because now our movie is coming out."

The movie was to premiere this past Sunday at the prestigious South by Southwest film festival in Austin. The Dorrances hope to get Coldwater into other high-profile film festivals, such as Tribeca and Cannes, with the goal of signing a distribution deal to get the movie into theaters.

Before leaving for Austin, Kris was having a tough time wrapping her mind around the thrill of seeing "Coldwater" on the big screen at a major film festival.

"I don't think it's really registered yet," she said. Reality will hit "when I sit in a theater for the first time with an actual audience. It's going to be absolutely exhilarating. I've seen the movie so many times that I'll be watching everybody else. It will be like watching it through their eyes. That's going be to priceless for me."

FYI
Read more about "Coldwater" at www.coldwaterthemovie.com