All Creatures Here Below (Official Trailer)
Actor David Dastmalchian fought to ensure his indie feature “All Creatures Here Below” got filmed in his hometown of Kansas City. In the summer of 2016, he accomplished that goal.
“Kansas City is so incredibly under-shot, as far as film and television goes,” says Dastmalchian, a Shawnee Mission South graduate. “There is an endless landscape of every imaginable setting for middle-America storytelling, and the close proximity to talent, resources and transportation make KC an ideal place to keep producing.”
Now the harrowing drama (which he also wrote) opens wide on May 17.
Dastmalchian portrays Gensan, a Los Angeles fast food worker who lives in borderline poverty with girlfriend Ruby, played by Karen Gillan (Nebula from “Avengers: Endgame”). After a spontaneous crime puts the pair on the run, they flee to their native Kansas, bringing dark secrets along with them.
Describing “All Creatures” as a hybrid of a road movie, outlaw couple adventure and love story, Dastmalchian claims 95% of filming took place in and around the KC metro area.
Here are some of the locales featured.
650 E. Red Bridge Road
“One of my favorite memories was prepping and shooting at Mamma Leone’s,” says Dastmalchian, best known for playing Kurt in the “Ant-Man” blockbusters (and who has just been cast as a supervillain in the “Suicide Squad” sequel).
“The owner, Frank (Leone), and his family were so warm and welcoming. … My character works in a pizza shop cooking and cutting pies. Frank took the time to really work with me and help me learn how to move and operate in the kitchen as if it was something I had been doing for a long time.
“We had (David) Koechner in for those days of filming, which made it even more awesome. My son — who was 2 at the time — sat down and ate some slices one day as we were prepping to shoot. It was a beautiful day.”
806 Southwest Blvd.
“It had a great Southern California architecture aesthetic that doubled well for Los Angeles,” says “All Creatures Here Below” director Collin Schiffli, who previously collaborated with Dastmalchian on their 2014 drama “Animals.”
“The moment we saw some of these locations, we knew this would be one of many spots that helped us convey a journey across the country without having to go further than a few miles across town. This was a huge relief for the producers and I.”
642 Southwest Blvd., Kansas City, Kansas
“We were able to double this location for Arizona,” Schiffli continues. “Aside from swapping out some Kansas City license plates for Arizona plates, it was easy to depict the Southwest. … I could go on and on about how Kansas City provided many options for us to depict various states, but it also allowed for us to show off the picturesque landscapes of true middle America.”
Field on Blue River Road
“One of the harder scenes for me took place at the end of the film, when Gensan is driving Ruby out on the old roads near their childhood home,” Dastmalchian says of a sequence meant to double for De Soto, Kansas.
“The team had selected a location out on Blue River Road just south of Bannister for the scene. I hadn’t been part of the location scouts since I’d been in Hungary working on ‘Blade Runner 2049,’ so this location came as a complete shock to me.
“It was actually a stretch of road and an area that has haunted me for most of my life and where one of the darker memories of my childhood took place. Being back there, confronted with the fact I was going to have to shoot an emotional scene in such scary territory, was paralyzing at first.”
Other places showcased in the movie:
▪ Strip mall on Vivion Road in Northmoor — “For area near Flagstaff, Arizona, when Ruby and Gensan argue outside of car.”
▪ Red Racks Thrift Store on Wornall Road — “Babies R Us-type store on road trip.”
▪ Leeds Diner on Stadium Drive — “Diner conversation with Gensan and Uncle Doug (played by musician John Doe).”
▪ Bus stop outside The Local Pig on E. 5th — “Bus stop where Gensan picks up Ruby.”
▪ Blue Bird Motel on Hwy 40 in KCMO — “Motel room on road trip.”
▪ Super Inn Hotel on NE Parvin Road — “Second motel room on road trip.”
Schiffli adds: “On a film like ‘All Creatures Here Below,’ you want to immerse the characters and the audience in a world that seems tangible on many levels. Kansas City provided more than enough opportunities for us to accomplish this, and I think this shows in the final product up on screen.”
Jon Niccum is a filmmaker, freelance writer and author of “The Worst Gig: From Psycho Fans to Stage Riots, Famous Musicians Tell All.”