New movie 'collects' local talent, locations

Loomis' Oakes directs and produced 'The Bill Collector'
By: Martha Garcia, Loomis News Editor
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If you like spotting familiar sites in movies, don’t miss “The Bill Collector.” Several Loomis, Auburn and Roseville locations are featured in the new full-length film, debuting at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Crest Theater in Sacramento. Local actors and crew also star in the film. Peter Oakes, of Loomis, is the independent film’s director and producer. Oakes heads Pacific Crest Media and joined forces with Bruce Blumen, of Gold Creek Productions in Grass Valley, to produce the psychological thriller. Blumen is both the screenwriter and executive producer. While the movie’s story is fictional, its subject is timely. An ex-convict gets a job as a collector and uses his position to intimidate and terrorize distraught debtors who, like millions of Americans, find themselves in financial trouble. The lead character is John Black, the bill collector played by Roseville resident Jason Bortz, 39. Black’s name matches his personality. He has no heart or conscience and seems to relish his job of making the down-and-out come up with money they owe. Bortz, a graduate of the National Shakespeare Conservatory in New York, got his break in film in 1993 as a featured extra in “Sleepless in Seattle.” “That was my first on-screen big move experience,” Bortz said. He’s also a screenwriter and director and won awards for a documentary he shot in Africa for the HEART organization. “I’m in development on our first full-length feature film that I’ve written and directed,” he said. Now, Bortz, acts mostly in independent films such as “The Bill Collector.” Playing John Black, an irredeemable character, was a challenge, Bortz said. “I’m really not that guy,” he said. “I’m not a cruel, horrible person, like John Black is. I had to come home at night to my family and shake the character off.” The audience, Bortz said, will hate John Black. “My wife said the minute she saw me, she wanted someone to hurt me.” Oakes said producing “The Bill Collector” was a challenge for him, too, because of the film’s low budget. He had only $60,000 for the principal shooting of the film. “We brought that under budget,” Oakes said. Production was also completed under the 23 days allotted. But, he said, “We spent the better part of the year editing, doing music,” Oakes said he wrote most of the music. Oakes, 49, is a Del Oro High School graduate. His film background includes TV commercials and corporate video, and most of his 14 movies have been about sports, such as drag racing and outdoor life. Cinematographer Bret Allen is also a Del Oro graduate and lives in Foresthill. The 52-year-old is semi-retired but said he took on the job despite the fact there was practically no budget to work with. “I had to put together a crew that was the smallest crew that I’ve ever had to work with ... I’m used to working on movies with unlimited money, all the equipment I could want, all the personnel I could want.” Allen said he is proud of the work his crew did. “We came in under budget, within the time period we had set. That’s the goal for any movie, whether it’s a $40 million budget or $40,000. “I thought we got a really good-looking movie out of it,” he said. Oakes worked with Beverly Lewis, of the Placer-Lake Tahoe Film Office, to locate film sites. Lewis said she facilitated the use of buildings at the DeWitt Center in Auburn that were scheduled for demolition. Scenes in apartment rooms, the police station, and debt collector’s office were all shot in the buildings. Other local scenes to look for are Wild Chicken Coffee and Williams Pond in Loomis, Mary Belle’s Restaurant and Auburn Pawn & Loan in Auburn, and the West House Bar in Roseville. Familiar faces in the film include Lloyd Moseby, of Granite Bay, and Oakes’ mother and father, Joan and Phil Oakes, and daughter, Megan Moreno, of Loomis. Oakes is excited about prospects for the “The Bill Collector.” He showed the movie to his contacts in the industry, he said, and they offered to put it into distribution. He turned down the offer. Instead, the film will be available as a Google YouTube rental after Friday’s premiere. “It’s brand new technology … that’s what I get the most excited about,” he said.