Wilkes County native Ritchie Allen Greer, an independent filmmaker from Los Angeles, is returning home to film most of the scenes of his next movie production, “Weekend Warriors.”
Greer said filming in Wilkes is planned in various locales from June 10-26. Greer and executive producer Scott Gross were in North Wilkesboro and other areas of Wilkes scouting out locations in early April.
“We’ll be shooting in all parts of North Wilkesboro,” said Greer from his home in Los Angeles on Wednesday. “When I was writing the script, I would always flash back to my hometown and picture the entire film being shot there.”
He said Terri Parsons, Wilkes County film commissioner, and North Wilkesboro Mayor Robert Johnson “were able to obtain magnificent locations for me, which made the dream of shooting here a reality.” Specific locations aren’t being made public to minimize on-set distractions for the cast and crew.
Greer wrote the screenplay and will direct “Weekend Warriors,” which he described as a fun-filled camping trip that turns into a desperate fight for survival after two kids witness a horrific murder in the wild.
“Not only do they have to endure the harsh elements and ferocious wildlife, but they must also find a way to reach civilization before the killers find them,” according to the movie’s tagline.
On his website (ritchiegreer.com), Greer describes “Weekend Warriors” as a family film, which he said is needed. He said there aren’t enough family films being made now “and I strive to fill that void.”
He added, “The cast of the movie has a wide age range, so I think that everyone, no matter how old you are, would be able to relate to some of the characters in it…. This movie has humor, action, thrills and even an underlying message of faith.”
The cast of “Weekend Warriors” includes Corbin Bernsen, well known for his Emmy-nominated turn as Arnie Becker on “L.A. Law,” Jason London (“Dazed and Confused”) and Daniel de Weldon (in Greer’s earlier film, “Underdog”).
The filming of “Weekend Warriors” began March 16 and March 30 in California. The second day of filming involved scenes with “Tag,” an 800-pound Kodiak bear. The rest of the shooting will be in Wilkes in June.
The film is being shot digitally on RED cameras, one of several methods employed by the cast and crew to maximize the filming budget. Greer says he understands why fundraising is the hardest part of the film industry.
“What I did to ease investors’ minds was to start small: shooting independent short films with no or very little budget,” he said. “Luckily, some of those small short films won a few awards and received notoriety. So, that’s one way to show people what you can do.”
Greer noted that the limited budget on “Warriors” and his other films “forces us to be creative as far as how to get the shots, how to make it all work, and how to make it look like a highly-funded film. I sort of enjoy being the ‘David’ to the studio ‘Goliaths.’”
‘Underdog’ to be screened here
“Underdog,” a mixed martial arts (MMA) sports drama written and directed by Greer, will be released later this year by Magic Arrow Films, a production company he founded in 2015. It’s described by the filmmakers as “a young girl meets a boxing (MMA) coach and they quickly form a bond based on their mutual struggles with their own addictions.”
“Underdog” took home an award in January for “Best Narrative Feature” at the Los Angeles Film Awards, a monthly film and screenplay competition.
A red-carpet screening for the director’s cut of “Underdog” will take place June 13 at Two Rivers Cinema in Wilkesboro. The red-carpet ceremony starts at 6 p.m., and the film will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10. Some of the cast and crew, including Greer, will answer questions after the show.
Millers Creek to Hollywood
Greer is a 1988 graduate of West Wilkes High School and a 1990 graduate of Wilkes Community College, where he was student body president. He also wrestled at WCC under coach Herman Norman.
He said developing a great imagination as a young student in Wilkes led to him eventually becoming a prolific screenwriter and novelist.
“I remember sitting in class when I was a young boy just daydreaming about life in general. That evolved into creating characters and stories within these lost moments. I was, by far, not the smartest student in the classroom. God didn’t make me great in math or science or pretty much anything that had to do with books. But He did give me the gift of imagination and I’m truly thankful for that. And if you can imagine it, you can write it.”
After college, Greer moved to Myrtle Beach and became entertainment director at Studebakers, one of the largest night clubs on the East Coast. “I truly thought that I had the best job in the world. But then my passion turned to screenwriting and I knew that my best chance to make it in the film industry was to move to L.A., which I did in 2009.”
Greer said he didn’t have a job or place to stay and had very little money upon moving to California, but “I was determined to find a way to realize my dream.” He wrote screenplays while working as security supervisor at The Grove night club to make ends meet.
“Nothing can truly prepare you for what it’s like in L.A.,” he noted. “What I can tell you is stay true to who you are. Don’t try to change and become something that you’re not. Be proud of what you are and where you came from. North Wilkesboro will always be my hometown. I’m still a country boy at heart and I hope to bring more films to the town that I love.”
Greer said that 10 years in Los Angeles taught him that “if I kept working hard and treated people with honor and respect, one day I would get the opportunity to make films. That day has finally come and I’m very thankful for the struggles I had to endure because I think it makes me appreciate what I’m lucky enough to do.”
Big dreams for the future
Including “Warriors” and “Underdog,” Magic Arrow currently has 17 projects in development, including “The Legend of Catclaws Mountain” (a “mystical tale about a young girl and her lost pony”) and “Fast” (described as “The Goonies” meets “Young Guns”).
Greer has written 22 screenplays and has self-published five novels, all of which are available on Amazon. “Creating stories is my passion,” he said. “And that passion fuels my drive.”
Moving forward, Greer said that he hopes to make bigger and better films. “Anybody in this industry dreams of standing on the stage at the Oscars, holding up the statue in victory. But more than anything, I just want to bring my stories to life on the big screen so people can take a couple of hours of their hectic day and enjoy the world and the stories that I’ve created.”
Greer stressed that the only true failure in life is not trying. “You’re going to hear thousands of ‘noes’ before you hear that one ‘maybe.’ Then you’re going to hear hundreds of ‘maybes’ until you hear that one ‘yes.’ You have to believe in yourself and in what you do.
“You have to know deep inside that one day, your time will come. And when it does, be thankful, humble, and be glad that you’re part of the game.”