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An independent movie production company has come to Colorado searching for its own fortune with its first full-length movie in Clear Creek County and in Denver.

The production company, Distant Thunder Films, is filming “Searching for Fortune” in Empire, at Ponder Point and Echo Lake, and last week it was fully entrenched in the Westwinds Tavern on Miner Street in Idaho Springs.

Twins Phil and Joseph Matarrese are the backbone of Distant Thunder Films, and they have been joined by Mandi Reno. The company is based out of San Francisco and Los Angeles, and Phil Matarrese and Reno said it’s been a nice change to be on location in Clear Creek.

“Idaho Springs has the look and feel of the town we wanted to set the movie in,” Matarrese said. “We looked at a number of small towns along the I-70 corridor on googlemaps, and Idaho Springs really suited our needs.”

They said residents have been warm, friendly and supportive, with locals in stores, restaurants and at the Columbine Inn in Idaho Springs being helpful and inquisitive about their project.

Westwinds Tavern owner Stan Gould has been happy to allow the movie company to use his tavern.

“They were out scouting locations, and they came into the bar and talked to us,” Gould said. “It’s nice to see outside companies showing interest in our county. The more that happens, the better off everybody will be.”Gould and other locals are in the background of some of the bar scenes.

“They managed to squeeze me in a little bit,” Gould said. “It was fun.”

The movie centers on Michael, a roughneck oil worker who feels he has a successful life until he learns that he had an older brother who was given up for adoption. Michael’s brother was even more successful, and this knowledge turns Michael’s world upside down.

Brian Smolensky, who plays Michael in the film, also wrote the script. Smolensky, who studied at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, called the movie “a love letter to my brother.” He explained that he and his brother both have been successful in different ways, which is the basis for the plot.

Westwinds Tavern is like the “Cheers” for the group of oil workers.

John Heard, who is best known for his parts as the father in the “Home Alone” movies, plays Michael’s father. Christina Moore plays Emily, the widow of the brother. The roughnecks are played by Tom Costello, Sam Munoz, Aaron Munoz and Michael Kripchak.

Smolensky said he chose to set the movie in Colorado because of his experiences at the Air Force Academy. During his free time, he drove to small towns and liked the community atmosphere.

Cinematographer Anthony Kuhnz has been pleased with the Rocky Mountain backdrop for the movie and by the look of Idaho Springs and Empire.

“The towns look exactly as we need them to (for the movie),” he said.

The production company is on a tight deadline, hoping to finish shooting and editing the movie in time for the Telluride Film Festival form Aug. 29 through Sept. 1.

The producers hope to do a special screening of the movie in Clear Creek County.

To keep track of how the film is progressing, visit   www.distantthunderfilms.com/fortune. To find out if there will be a showing here, e-mail info@DistantThunderFilms.com.