MINT HILL, NC – In March 2021, Hollywood came to Mecklenburg County at Ponderosa Menagerie and Roberts Big Oak Farm. Seirah Royin, originally from Charlotte but now out of Los Angeles, and the film’s Director, Raeshib Aggerwhil, are making a short film for the HBO Asian Pacific American Visionaries 2021 Short Film Festival. Focusing on promoting emerging directors with Asian and/or Pacific Islander descent and judged by HBO executives, industry leaders, and other APA filmmakers, the festival’s theme this year is “Taking the Lead” by portraying Asian Pacific Americans in lead roles embracing the spirit of trailblazers, heroes, and luminaries.
Royin and Aggerwhil’s story will feature a Pacific legend set in Appalachia. The film will focus on farm life, and Royin knew of a few great places where they could film in the Carolinas because of her history here. “It’s nice to be able to come back to North Carolina and feature this area,” Royin shared. The team hired quite a few locals in the area as well as shooting on location. Some of the crew was from LA, but the rest of the cast and crew were picked up here in the Carolinas.
One of the local places they filmed at was Ponderosa Menagerie in Charlotte, NC, owned by Craig and Wendy Sonrise. Wendy explained some of the process; “We were thinking, ‘How in the heck did you hear about our farm? Is this legit?’ But once we heard that one of our followers gave them our name, and after speaking with Seirah and googling her, we were all in! She was very professional and just a great person. We love to share our farm and animals, and we thought it would be great for our little town to be able to have the claim to fame of an HBO short film being filmed right here! So, we were very excited.”
“The film crew was great; we had so much fun with them,” she continued. “We laughed about the Hollywood terms for things and then our common folk terms for things – lighting guy=gaffer, extension cord=stinger. They let me do a FaceBook Live as they were shooting the last scene and even gave a shout-out to those watching the live feed, so that was fun. The director, Raeshib, and Seirah came in advance to check everything out, and I knew it would be a good experience. They were very gracious recognizing it would be an intrusion in our normal, very quiet day! Seirah was great; we had a lot of laughs – she said ‘I’m supposed to look scared in this scene and you’re making me laugh,’ so I pointed out a mouse over in the corner of the barn, and she really was scared. She was just gorgeous and even her ‘work boots’ were fancy.”
“They said even if they don’t win the competition, the film will be shown all over the world!” Sonrise concluded. “We will be in the credits, and it will show Mint Hill, NC! So my animals are famous, and it was an amazing experience!”
HBO APA Visionaries has already closed their 2021 submissions, so now Royin and Aggerwhil are waiting on prizes and release dates to be announced. You can find the winners of past competitions and future announcements of the 2021 winners at https://www.hbovisionaries.com/