Making good independent movies is very, very hard,” says producer Chris Ramirez, and he should know: The founder and managing partner of Lola Pictures produced two of the biggest indie films ever made in Vegas, the first of which, Frank & Lola, opens this week. When Ramirez secured funding for Lola Pictures from the Downtown Project in 2013, he and development partner Charles Cantrell started combing through possible projects for the Vegas-based company to produce, and a script by filmmaker Matthew Ross caught their eye.
Frank & Lola, a dark drama about the intense relationship between a moody chef and his insecure girlfriend, was set in Ross’ home base of Brooklyn, but Ramirez and Cantrell saw potential for it to become a Vegas movie. “We brought Matt out to Las Vegas and said, we’re only shooting movies here, so if the story works in a new setting, we’d be interested in developing this,” Ramirez explains. Ramirez and Cantrell gave Ross the grand tour of Downtown Las Vegas, convincing him that the change of cities was the right move.
And the film, starring Michael Shannon and Imogen Poots as the title characters, makes great use of Vegas locations that don’t typically end up onscreen (although it does venture to the Strip, too). “The shift to Las Vegas, I think, made it a much more interesting movie,” Ramirez says. While he and his company are now based in LA, Ramirez is still working on Vegas-related projects, including punk-rock drama Viena and the Fantomes, starring Dakota Fanning and Evan Rachel Wood, which is the other movie to come from his Downtown Project deal (it’s currently in post-production). “This is the kind of movie that I knew could come out of Las Vegas,” he says of Frank & Lola. And this week, audiences in Vegas will get their chance to see it.