Modesto had a hand in making the film "Billy Boy" a reality, and now Modestans will get a chance to see it on the big screen.
The State Theatre brings the feature — produced and championed by Emmy Award-winning casting director and Modesto native Robert Ulrich — for a weeklong run this month.
Modesto entrepreneur Dan Costa also is an executive producer on the movie; he graduated from Davis High with Ulrich in 1972. Bringing it home further, about 800 other Modestans also helped fund "Billy Boy" by turning out to a 2014 fundraising concert for the film at the Gallo Center that featured its star Blake Jenner and several of his fellow alumni from the hit Fox TV show "Glee." That event netted filmmakers about $34,000 toward the project.
The movie screens June 15-21 at the State.
"Billy Boy" is Ulrich's first foray into film producing. It was shown last year on the film festival circuit and recently sold, Ulrich said in an email, with openings planned at 10 theaters and then to video on demand.
That one of the 10 theaters was in Ulrich's hometown came from out of nowhere.
"It was a wonderful surprise that Modesto was selected as one of the 10 cities that the movie was to show in," Ulrich said in an email interview. "Honestly, I had never mentioned to the distributors that I was from Modesto and it was a complete coincidence. It’s so exciting for me to have a movie that I produced actually play in the theater that I grew up in and where I dreamt of a career in film."
The movie stars Blake Jenner as Billy Forsetti, an angry teenager who beats up a teacher and gets kicked out of his house. After his friend is found dead, he tries to separate himself from his old life and move on with a nice girl. But his grief and memories get in the way.
The movie also stars Jenner's now ex-wife, Melissa Benoist, the current star of the CBS show "Supergirl," as well as Greg Germann ("Ally McBeal," "Grey's Anatomy"), Aramis Knight and Andre Royo.
The movie has been extremely well received, Ulrich said.
"We’ve gotten some very good reviews and incredible feedback. The movie is not an easy movie. It’s raw, heavy and gritty and not a movie for children; but, I have looked at it from the start as a true cautionary tale," he said. "The thing that always struck me the most about the movie is that it is the theme of lost potential. That’s the element that has always affected me the most on an emotional level."
The movie is directed by Brad Buecker, who worked on "Glee," as well as "American Horror Story," both TV hits cast by Ulrich's award-winning company. Ulrich won an Emmy in 2011 for his casting of "Glee."
Ulrich and his actress wife — Kim Johnston Ulrich, who is a native of Ripon — have stayed connected over the years to the region. Their son Cooper also helped produce the movie.
Ulrich met Jenner when the latter was a contestant and ultimately won the reality/competition show "The Glee Project," which the Modesto native hosted and mentored.
"The fact that I was able to make (the film) with people I love, the fact that my son, Cooper, is a producer on it and shot part of it, that I’ve known Blake since he was 18 and that he won "The Glee Project," which was such a big part of my life, that Brad and I worked together on "Glee," that my business partner Mike Jenner (Blake's brother) came out of this experience," Ulrich said. "All of it has made for a very meaningful life experience."