SAN DIEGO -- Oh, to have a feature film released in the middle of a pandemic when only about 6% of movie theaters in North America are open -- mostly drive-ins. That is the scenario for "Mighty Oak," a musical movie drama with strong San Diego ties that features top Hollywood talent.
And backers of the movie couldn't be more delighted.
That's because film giant Paramount just acquired global distribution rights and announced a Friday cinema debut, with plans to expand showings as theaters open across the country.
Eleven-year-old La Jolla music prodigy Tommy Ragen plays "Mighty Oak's" Oak Scoggins. Tommy, son of the film project's masterminds, Frank and Amy Ragen, started playing guitar and performing at open mike venues at age 6. He was cast at age 9 in the first national touring production of Broadway's "School of Rock" musical.
Tommy composed several songs, working with San Diego-raised Caroline Corn, that inspired the movie's story line, primarily one titled, "Chasing," that he wrote when he was 8. His sister, Emma Ragen, also makes a brief appearance in the film.
The movie showcases San Diego. Filming took place early last year at various local sites. But Ocean Beach is the star. Ocean Beach Elementary School students and Principal Marco Drapeau took part in the action. There were shots of the Ocean Beach Playhouse, O.B. Town Council, O.B. Pier, shops and nearby Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.
Scenes were filmed at Lestat's coffee house in Normal Heights, where Tommy has performed, the Belly Up in Solana Beach and The Lafayette Hotel on El Cajon Boulevard.
Muirlands Middle School student Danny Ruiz plays a bully in the film, and the music of local rock bands, including Band of Gringos, Slightly Stoopid and Fashion Jackson, makes an appearance. Our Lady of Peace alumna Sophia Bacino also has a song in the movie.
"I am unbelievably humbled and excited," said Amy, after the Paramount deal was announced.
"Mighty Oak," tells the story of a band manager, played by Janel Parrish ("Pretty Little Liars" and "To All the Boys I've Loved Before"). She and her brother, Vaughn, and their band, Army of Love, are taking the Southern California music scene by storm. Her life suddenly falls to pieces when Vaughn, played by Levi Dylan, son of Jakob and grandson of Bob Dylan, dies in a car accident.