Aug 19, 2013 - By Christina George and Katie Roenigk, Staff WritersCentral Wyoming College alumnus Devin Sanchez said the education she gained in Riverton has helped her to be successful in the New York City movie market.
Sanchez stars in and co-produced the independent feature film "Twenty Million People," which has won several awards this year at film festivals throughout the United States.
"I didn't expect to get in any festivals," Sanchez said in a telephone interview this month. "I didn't want to get my hopes up and have them squashed, so I wasn't really expecting anything. (But) now we've gone to and been accepted to about 15 festivals. So, yeah, we're going pretty good."
This spring, the movie won best feature at the Cape Fear Independent Film Festival and at the Maryland International Film Festival as well as the Home-Grown Feature award at the Garden State Film Festival. At the Visionfest festival ,the movie earned the best directing and best editing awards, and it is scheduled to be shown at eight other events in the fall.
Sanchez made the movie with her boyfriend, Michael Ferrell, and their friend Chris Prine. "Twenty Million People" represents the first feature film attempt for all three producers.
"We've all done sketch comedy, web series, pilots and independent work like that, but this is our first feature film," she said. "It was great to tackle it."
She said her time at CWC helped prepare her for the challenges of producing a movie while also spending time on screen.
Jacks of all trades
For "Twenty Million People," Sanchez and her co-producers were in charge of everything from set design and construction to prop selection and film editing, in addition to their individual acting roles in the movie.
Sanchez specifically recaled theater professor Chontelle Gray, who encourages students to take a hands-on approach to learning.
"Coming from acting, I never thought I'd be involved in the technical side of things," Sanchez said. "(But Chontelle) made me excited to want to learn it. ... I think because of that I really learned how to manage my time, build sets and stage manage, which really helped my producing side."
She said she also developed her acting skills at CWC.
Growing up in Casper, Sanchez had performed comedy at talent shows and had always wanted to act, but she was shy in high school and ended up in the sound department there.
"I got on stage (when I) was doing a lot of forensics and debate," she said. "But at CWC I really started going deep into the acting."
When she went on to the University of Wyoming for her bachelor's degree, Sanchez said she only learned more about her own acting abilities.
"They prepared me ... for the real world," she said of her teachers at UW. "I knew what was expected of me when I went in to an audition. ... And I was still involved in the technical side."
Sanchez said she focused on camera work during her time in Laramie, and she encouraged other theater students to take advantage of the professional equipment and instruction available to them at school.
"Try to get your hands on everything, because when you're in school that's the opportunity," she said. "Find that community, the people who can help you."
"Twenty Million People" was shot over the course of 12 days on a very low budget, Sanchez said. Funds were raised entirely online through indiegogo.com, and the film crew included Sanchez, Ferrell, Prine and four other people.
"(We) work with what we have," she said. "There were no explosions, no car chases. We knew we wouldn't be able to do that because we couldn't afford to rent cars for a scene or anything."
The title of the 75-minute film comes from a line in the movie that appears on the "Twenty Million People" website: "There are 20 million people in the greater New York City area. So why is it so hard to find someone you like?"
Sanchez said the plot is about a man who doesn't believe in soul mates.
"But then he meets Ashley and finds out maybe she's the one," she said. "Then she disappears. So he goes on this quest with his best friend to find Ashley around New York and New Jersey."
The movie isn't a typical romantic comedy, however. Sanchez said characters from one of Brian's own movies "come to life" in his mind and help him search for Ashley.
The producers also tried to stay away from anything "cheesy," Sanchez said, describing their attempts to write the dialogue "how real people talk."
"Brian's very cynical," she said.
There's no easy way for local residents to see the movie, but Sanchez said she brought a screening to Casper and would like to show the film at CWC as well.
"That would be great," she said. "There are so many people (there) that I want to show the film to."
Sanchez lives in New York for now, and when she isn't busy with "Twenty Million People" she works as a stunt double on various movie sets. She said she usually stands in for children due to her stature - Sanchez is only 4-foot-9.
"It's anything from falling off your bike, to slipping and falling and hitting your head and drowning in the ocean, or sitting in a car driving crazy and hitting stuff on the curb," Sanchez said. "It's my survival job in New York City."
To learn more about Sanchez's film, visit twentymillionpeople.com.
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