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In Photos: ‘Carnival of Wonders’ movie premiere is itself a wonder

Sellout event benefits local nonprofits

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Fire dancer Genevieve Jae performs during the movie premiere for Carnival of Wonders. Kyle Ludowitz / Review

Dancing, electronic music, steam-punk clothing and Cirque du Soleil performers. It was all on display at the Carnival of Wonders movie premiere. 

The film, choreographed by Christopher Childers and directed by Jonathan Lawrence, premiered on Friday at Long Branch Saloon and Farm south of Half Moon Bay. The four-hour ticketed event was a sellout with more than 400 in attendance. The screening was on the movie set, where most of the production was filmed over a three-day period in mid-June. Lawrence was unable to attend the premiere as he was still editing the film hours before its debut.

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Cirque du Soleil acrobats Anna Batchuluun Brown, right, and Tsetsgee Tsendtogooch, left, traveled from Los Angeles to perform before the screening of the film. Kyle Ludowitz / Review

The farm, owned by the Palmer family on the Coastside, houses a collection of buildings resembling a small rustic western town, and the audience added to the ambiance with an assortment steam-punk clothing. There was a barbecue dinner, stocked bar, gambling tables, even a mini golf course. All proceeds from the gambling and silent auction went to local charities CoastPride, SquarePeg Foundation and the Edgewood Center for Children and Families.

The film, set in a dystopian afterlife, involved trapped souls wandering the ranch, trying to grapple with their missed opportunities and attempting to find their true potential. The movie’s dramatic choreography was coupled with a vibrant and haunting electronic music soundtrack, some of which was provided by deejay Tone Ranger, who performed live at Long Branch.

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DJ Lone Ranger (Alex Simon) plays a set with his deep house rhythms blended with ethereal instrumentation at the after-party for the Carnival of Wonders screening. Kyle Ludowitz / Review

Last year, the Carnival of Wonders was a live performance at the Coastal Repertory Theatre, selling out all four shows in November. Afterward, Childers brainstormed on new ways to execute the story, eventually deciding on a movie. He partnered with Lawrence, a longtime friend and Los Angeles-based film director in February. Plans presented a unique challenge for Childers and Lawrence, as most of the cast had not performed in a cinematic production. It was Lawrence’s first time shooting choreography. 

Jennifer Tosetti, 47, was one of the leads in the film. She has been dancing most of her life, majoring in theater arts and acting and dancing consistently for the past four years. She leapt at the opportunity to join last year’s production, and said the combination of youth and experience was what made the film special. 

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The Shely Pack Dancers perform a piece similar to a dance in the Carnival of Wonders movie. Kyle Ludowitz / Review

“Working with people who have experience brings something out in them, it sparks their fire and it gets them to want to do more,” she said.

Childers recruited women from his cardio dance classes at FIT Studio, and from the Shelly Pack Dancers, a local youth dance group. He used his connections with Cirque du Soleil, for which he performed for many years, to bring two performers for a brief live show. 

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The Carnival of Wonders movie premiere was screened at Long Branch Saloon and Farms where portions of the film were shot. Kyle Ludowitz / Review

For 13-year-old Sea Crest student Jordan Grisim, a lead actress who had no film experience but had been dancing since she was 3, the film provided a tremendous new opportunity. 

“I was paired with the best people in the world,” Grisim said. “I just built the best relationship with them and just learned as I went. I can definitely say that was the best experience.”

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Attendees were able to take full advantage of the working saloon and gambling hall during the evening event. 100 percent of proceeds went to several local nonprofits on the Coastside. Kyle Ludowitz / Review

The plan is to show the movie at festivals next year, and Childers hopes it makes an impression. 

“I’m incredibly blessed to bring what I do to the area that I live,” Childers said. “I’ve worked in Las Vegas and Los Angeles for so many years, and I thought I could never do a job that I love where I live. I’m so grateful that I can do it and people are catching on to it.”

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Most event goers came in costume, showing off their collection of western and steam punk paraphernalia. Kyle Ludowitz / Review 

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