It’s not every day that a world premiere of a movie comes to town. So when that happens, get there early.
Even though the gates didn’t open until 6 p.m. Thursday at Enderby’s Starlight Drive-In, fans began lining up at 9 a.m. for the debut of locally filmed Blackway.
“We’re so excited,” said Enderby’s Wendy Swanson, sitting in the back of a pickup and waiting for the big screen to light up.
With hours to go, these die-hards kept themselves busy.
“Someone dropped off nail polish,” said Laureen Shannon, of Salmon Arm.
“We honked and waved at people driving past on the highway,” added Enderby’s Carlie Holman.
Once the gates opened, a steady stream of cars and trucks made their way on to site, with some estimating the crowd at about 1,200.
“It’s kind of surreal,” said producer Rick Dugdale, as he looked out at the expanding scene.
“To see people come together and rally like this is great.”
And all of the credit for this one of a kind premiere is directed completely towards Dugdale, president of Enderby Entertainment and a native of the North Okanagan city.
“He wanted to put Enderby on the map and he sure did,” said Mayor Greg McCune.
Dugdale’s enthusiasm for his hometown and the North Okanagan was contagious among the cast and crew who shot in the region in 2014.
“The community always rallied behind the production,” said actor Aleks Paunovic, from Winnipeg.
“I have a great taste of Enderby and Vernon.”
Blackway actor Chris Gauthier always knew this day would happen.
Growing up in Armstrong, Gauthier would get together with Dugdale for scene study.
“We talked about bringing films here and it’s come full circle,” said Gauthier, who is best known for Once Upon A Time and Supernatural.
“This is my heart and soul. This was our dream and we fulfilled it.”
Dugdale was surrounded by friends and family Thursday night, including Roxi Hermsen. As an A.L. Fortune teacher, Hermsen gave Dugdale a camera in her Grade 8 media class.
“It blows my mind because it all started with a camera in the staff room that no one claimed and I did,” she said.
“I love that Rick brings it home. It’s just fabulous.”
And Enderby and the North Okanagan could shine again if Dugdale and partner Daniel Petrie have their way.
Besides organizing the premiere, the Hollywood duo have been scouting locations.
Among those in the passenger seat was Jeff Fahey, who was in the cult TV series Lost.
“The people here are wonderful,” he said.
“This is the perfect location for shooting. You can shoot westerns, period pieces, zombie pieces.”
Blackway’s premiere was unprecedented for Fahey.
“I haven’t been at a drive-in for 35 years so this is very cool and classy,” he said.
But as darkness nestled over the valley and the giant screen came to life, anxiety set in for those attached to Blackway.
“People are seeing the film for the first time,” said Dugdale.
Director Daniel Alfredson, who flew in from Sweden for the event, was also eagerly waiting for reaction.
“It’s really personal to me right now. I’m proud of it,” he said.
Blackway stars Anthony Hopkins, Ray Liotta, Alexander Ludwig and Julia Stiles, and while none of the headliners were in Enderby Thursday, one of them reached out to the fans.
“It was an incredible experience,” said Hopkins of the film via a video message.
“I hope it’s a big success.”
Dugdale used a video message to point out that Blackway is an independent film and instead of a huge marketing campaign, he is counting on those at the premiere to spread the word.
“Create a movement, start a network,” he said.
“Go on Rotten Tomatoes and write a review. The more clicks we have, the more people know about our film.”
The film will garner further exposure when it opens June 10 at Vernon Towne Cinema.
And once the credits began to roll Thursday night, the fun wasn’t over.
Enthusiastic fans and dignitaries made their way over to the after-party at the Splatsin Community Centre, where they were greeted by giant spotlights and red-carpet photos.
“It was absolutely incredible. It was really Hollywood,” said Gloria Morgan, a Splatsin resident.
“You go through life in a small town and it’s hard to believe things like this can happen here. You usually have to go to Hollywood for this and we walked out of our front door and within a couple of minutes, we were here.”