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Local talent present for ‘The Absent’

Movies: Santa Clarita Valley actors, producers, editors and more lend their talents

Posted: July 29, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: July 29, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Vanessa Zima, right, of Stevenson Ranch, plays the backstabbing Amy Jones in the independent film “The Absent.”

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“The Absent” might be set in Washington state, but it has the Santa Clarita Valley written all over it.

An independent psychological thriller with undertones of horror, “The Absent,” which was released in March 2011 on DirecTV’s on Demand, and is now available on DVD, features many local talents.

First, there’s the cast — with Stevenson Ranch actors Matthew Josten and sisters Vanessa Zima and Yvonne Zima in title roles.

Then there’s the location. Executive producer Mike Josten lent his Stevenson Ranch home to the proceedings for pivotal scenes in the movie.

“They changed the look of the room, so you can’t really tell,” said Josten, who owns the Santa Clarita School of Performing Arts in Valencia. “It was pretty cool to do an independent project around here and get the experience.”

Once the Zima sisters caught wind of the project, they were on board, too, according to director Sage Bannick. “I used to work for Mike, that’s how I got in with him and shot the scenes at his house.

The Zima sisters were friends with the lead actor and liked what they saw after the first couple of scenes, so they agreed to be in the movie,” he said.

Bannick, who directed the independent “Just Hustle” in 2003, came up with the idea for “The Absent” a few years ago. “I wanted to do something based on dual personalities with twin brothers. A sheriff does the wrong thing by saving someone’s life, which puts the plot in motion,” Bannick said. “There are dirty deeds in a cabin, which catches on fire.

Slowly, the villain starts to down all the people who might have knowledge of what‘s really going on.”

Shot primarily in Winthrop, Wash., “The Absent” has an eerie ambiance that permeates the film.

Yvonne Zima, known for her recurring role as Daisy Carter on “The Young and the Restless,” found the small-town atmosphere compelling.

“The most fun part about it was that we didn’t get cellphone reception, and had to drive 15 minutes to get Internet. There are more deer than people in Winthrop. It’s just a cemetery, a church and a restaurant, which is a breath of fresh air, coming from the suburbs or Los Angeles,“ she said. “The actual setting was, to me, conducive to the whole experience.”

The actress, a Hart High graduate, played Katie Anderson, whom she described as a typical teenager.

“She gets good grades and wins the science fair, but no one knows that she’s dating the teacher. Sorry to say to most parents, a lot of kids will get good grades and do bad things,” Yvonne Zima said.

Working with her older sister Vanessa, who played her two-faced best friend Amy Jones, came very easily.

“We have natural chemistry, so we didn’t have to do much work on creating a relationship, which can be hard if you don’t get along,” Yvonne Zima said. “We had the freedom to play around with each other, and Vanessa is the best actress I know.”

Vanessa Zima, who starred in “Wicked” and several guest appearances on shows, such as “Judging Amy” and “House,” had high praise for the cast and crew of “The Absent.”

“I love working with Yvonne. She inspires me to be better; I have to step up my game when she’s on the scene,” she said. “It was really lovely to work with a couple of friends and my sister. It was a tight shoot, but everyone did it with love and grace.”

Like any horror movie, there was some unpleasantness in shooting some of the more graphic scenes.

Vanessa Zima’s character was originally going to have her neck sliced open.

“I had a tube glued to my neck, which was really uncomfortable. It looked bad, and the special effects weren’t working, so they just turned me around. The blood in the scene was very cool and gross, but it turned my hair and skin pink. As long as it was fake, it was OK with me,” she said.

Her sister couldn’t bear to watch any of the violence.

“I have to look away from gore, so my eyes were closed for half of it,” Yvonne Zima said. “My kill was very clean, although I did get a little charcoal put on me, due to the fire. The other characters had to do the whole corn-syrup thing, which was sticky and awful, so I’m glad I didn’t have to do that.”

Many of the cast and crew, including producer and first assistant director Lorna Paul and trailer editor Tim Boss, gathered at the movie’s premiere, which took place at the Santa Clarita School of Performing Arts in March.

Yvonne Zima laughed when she saw a familiar sight. “Anyone in Stevenson Ranch with Ryland home will recognize the location. I knew the layout of Mike’s house in the movie, like, ‘Oh, that’s my stairs,’ so it was kind of funny,” she said.

Overall, Yvonne Zima thought it was cool to work with industry professionals that happened to live in the town in which she grew up.

“We get a bad rap because we live in the ’burbs, because it’s wholesome or whatever, but we’re raised in a nice bubble, and I appreciate the bond,” she said. “We’re a little more grounded since we’re removed from the smog and smut and whatever’s going on down there in L.A.”

For more information on “The Absent,” visit www.theabsentmovie.com or view a trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ly_YQSeCBU. “The Absent” can be purchased at amazon.com and many other online DVD retailers.
msathe@the-signal.com

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