If you’ve ever wanted to see the streets of Isla Vista on the big screen, today is your chance. Writer/director Peter Iliff and producer Richard Halsey — both UCSB alumni — will be bringing their independent feature film Rites of Passage to the Magic Lantern Theater for its theatrical premiere.
In this comedy-thriller, anthropology student Nathan (Ryan Donowho) invites his classmates and professor to an abandoned ranch — a former sacred Chumash burial ground — and attempts to recreate an ancient ceremony with unexpected consequences.
The film boasts big names like Wes Bentley (American Beauty, The Hunger Games) as Nathan’s troubled brother Benny, Ashley Hinshaw (About Cherry) as college student Sandee and Christian Slater (Heathers), barely recognizable as the crazed meth addict, Delgado.
I recently talked with Halsey and gained insight into the film’s unique production process. The inception of Rites of Passage was different than most feature films, built around a location instead of a character or event. Halsey and Iliff became friends after meeting in a UCSB political science class and had the idea to film a movie at the Santa Barbara beach cottage they shared. Together, they created a story that could be filmed almost exclusively at the cottage location.
Rites of Passage is Halsey’s first and only film production experience; primarily, he works as the director of the environmental non-profit California Chaparral Institute. The film also marks Iliff’s first venture into directing, though he is an established screenwriter with films like Point Break and Varsity Blues to his name. Even with a quality script written by a recognizable screenwriter, no one really took the film seriously until Christian Slater signed on, Halsey said.
Besides the Santa Barbara cottage, UCSB was also an inspirational location for Rites of Passage. The film spent over a week shooting in Isla Vista, filming in an apartment next door to where Peter had actually lived when he attended UCSB. Halsey said the film includes some “classic Isla Vista scenes” and that “nothing’s changed” since he lived here, “the only difference is beer pong.” Since both he and Peter are familiar with I.V., Halsey said the party scenes are accurate and pretty much straight out of their lives.
Halsey also mentioned his enthusiasm for showing Rites of Passage to UCSB students at The Magic Lantern Theater. So far, the film has only screened in front of a few test audiences. But in Isla Vista, it will be shown to a theater full of the core demographic audience.
“It’s a great movie! I’m excited to see how people will react,” Halsey said.
If the film has a good reception, Rites of Passage might also be screened in other college towns.
Tonight at 7 p.m., the Santa Barbara-filmed Rites of Passage will debut right here in Isla Vista. Richard Halsey, Peter Iliff and additional members of the cast and crew will also be in attendance for a Q&A session after the film. Tickets are FREE and available at the Film and Media Studies office (2433 SSMS) or the theater box office (opens at 6:15 p.m.) before the screening. If you’re looking for something free to do tonight, head over to Magic Lantern Theater to support UCSB alumni and catch Isla Vista on the big screen. After all, this is about you.