s
s
Sections
Sections
Subscribe
You've read 3 of 10 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month!
Already a subscriber?
You've read 6 of 10 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month!
Already a subscriber?
We hope you've enjoyed reading your 10 free articles this month.
Continue reading with unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month!
Already a subscriber?
We've got a special deal for readers like you!
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month, and support community journalism!
Already a subscriber?
Thanks for your interest in award-winning community journalism! To get more of it, why not subscribe?
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month, and support community journalism!
Already a subscriber?
Want to keep reading? Take the next step by subscribing today!
Starting at just 99 cents per month, you can keep reading Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app, and support local journalism!
Already a subscriber?

Petaluma basks in Hollywood spotlight

X

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Login

X

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

LoginSubscribe

Ali Afshar has been on countless movie sets as an actor and producer, but the location of the Petaluma native’s latest project is on a special patch of land — his childhood home.

“Stand at Paxton County,” one of 11 movies he’s shot or shooting in Petaluma, is set to finish filming on the 200 acres of ranchland in the Sonoma Mountain hills this week.

The street, Lila Lane, is named after his mother, Leila Kasra, a prominent Iranian poet and lyricist, who helped craft some of the most popular songs in the country’s history. She succumbed to breast cancer when Afshar was 15, the year after the family named the road.

Afshar and his family lived on the 20-acre parcel in the 1970s and ’80s. He has fond memories of sprinting down the long driveway to Old Adobe Road whenever he could spot the encroaching school bus. Not once did he beat the bus, but that quarter-mile run became symbolic later in life as a drag racer and world champion driver, a passion that grew out of his love for cars and motorcycles.

Much of Afshar’s childhood was portrayed in the film “American Wrestler: The Wizard,” a highly-acclaimed picture that starred Jon Voight, William Fichtner, George Kosturos and Afshar, among others, chronicling his journey as an immigrant child and state wrestling champion at Casa Grande High School.

“Being Iranian and coming here in the hostage crisis to small town Petaluma with a population of 10,000 — when we came here nobody wanted to (interact with us),” Afshar said, looking down the hillside in front of the house. “It was very prejudicial; it was very tough to get along when all you wanted was to be a kid and fit in. … Through wrestling, I was able to get the town and the school turned around and behind me.”

“American Wrestler” was one of four movies Afshar brought to Petaluma in 2017, backed by Forrest Lucas of Lucas Oil. By the end of the 2018, he will have produced 11 total movies in various parts of the city, and estimated he’s injected $40 million into the local economy with patronage at many restaurants and businesses.

When it comes to recommendations, Afshar usually tells crewmembers about McNear’s Saloon, Petaluma Creamery and Cucina Paradiso.

The production company also rents five homes year-round to help house the 100-person crew. However, more than half of the crew stays in hotels, providing large amounts of taxable dollars.

Afshar’s long-term goal is to build a movie studio in Petaluma, solidifying a pipeline between the city and Hollywood to help channel more money into the local economy. But to get to that point, Afshar said he needs more eyes on these pictures, and called for better support from movie-watching Petalumans.

“I could build a studio up here if I could just get people to know about (these films),” he said. “We don’t have $20 million to market it, so we’re relying on friends to get the word out so we can keep it going.”

Most of the crew has been consistent throughout each Petaluma production. Afshar describes it as a “family atmosphere” that stems from Lucas’ mantra, “it costs nothing to be kind.”

The inside of the green house at the top of the hill has been transformed with different props like furniture, books and paintings designed to reflect a traditional ranch home. When the shooting moves outside, the common area doubles as a make-up studio.

Between takes, the crew finds cooler air under the shade of a sprawling tree in the front yard. The porch beside the kitchen door is where the sound director is set up.

Most of the property is filled with parked cars and trailers for the talent. On the hillside behind the house are cows and sheep that often ignore first-time director Brett Hedlund’s orders for quiet on the set.

Most of the Lucas-backed projects are “feel-good films” that are pro-America and pro-diversity, Afshar said.

“Stand at Paxton County” is one of their darkest and edgier offerings. It’s a mystery thriller that tells the true story of a rancher in North Dakota that fights back against a local sheriff that capitalized on poorly-worded laws to seize his animals and throw him in jail.

“It’s about these bigger powers that try to get this legislation passed and get these sheriffs and authority figures behind them,” Afshar said.

The picture stars Christopher McDonald (“Thelma & Louise,” “Requiem for a Dream,” “Happy Gilmore”), seasoned TV actor Michael O’Neill (“Dallas Buyers Club,” “Transformers”), and San Francisco native Jacqueline Toboni, known for her work on the Netflix original “Easy” and the series “Grimm.”

McDonald said his wife is a San Rafael native and is a “big fan” of Petaluma.

“It’s a wonderful model that Ali’s put together with his team,” McDonald said. “They get it done, they put the money on the screen and they tell good stories. That’s all we are as actors, just storytellers.”

(Contact News Editor Yousef Baig at yousef.baig@arguscourier.com or 776-8461, and on Twitter @YousefBaig.)