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  • James Zelony

Main story: Comedy filmed in Gilroy is part of PJIFF’s 40s and Up program

By Calvin Nuttall

On the steps of the Gilroy Museum in the golden afternoon sun, female impersonator Anthony Micheli, dressed in a full wig and sumptuous dress, soaked up the spotlight Nov. 12 during filming for “The Adventures of Belle Bottoms.” The offbeat comedy tells the tale of a superhero drag queen.

Also known by his stage name “Alina Maletti Galore,” Micheli performed a scene with actor Charlie Gilmore, who plays the role of a mayor presenting the superhero with a special honor. Micheli hammed it up with the Gilroy resident in accepting the award, even giving him a playful kiss on the forehead.

“I love my job,” Micheli said during a break from filming. “We’re having a great time, and I’m the center of attention. Hello!”

The short film is part of the Poppy Jasper International Film Festival’s 40s and Up educational program. It will be shown at this year’s event in April. The workshop leads a group of aspiring storytellers through the collaborative filmmaking process from script writing through production. The film festival also has a similar program for people aged 70 and older.

Participants don’t necessarily have to be 40-plus, but it is a more mature class in filmmaking. The program consists of writing, directing, and editing. This year they added industry professionals in other areas to help teach the filmmaking process. These include Production Designer Roger Fires (“Nobody,” “Violent Night”), two-time Emmy nominated screenwriter Kevin Rubio, Production Manager Mary Ann Rotondi (“Queen of the Desert,” Dateline NBC), Music Composer Randy Spendlove (president of Paramount Studios Worldwide Publishing and Music), Graphic Designer Paul Johnstone, and Vice President of Marketing Norma Garcia Muro (Lucasfilm, Paramount, Kaliedescape). Jeff Turner, a freestyle rapper wrote a song for the film.

This program gives these adults the opportunity to collaborate creatively on a short film. The purpose of the 40 & Up workshop is to work with people who, growing up, always wanted to make a movie but never had the opportunity. The program grants access to resources such as camera equipment, said Mattie Scariot, executive director of the festival.

“This is an opportunity for people to use newer technology, learn how to tell a compelling story, and realize filmmaking is a viable career path,” she said. “With this program, it is our hope to tell people they are never too old to learn a new skill or follow their dreams.”

After coming off a successful but exhausting 2022 festival run, Scariot wanted to do something creative with the community and the industry professionals that the festival created relationships with. That’s how the idea formed for “The Adventures of Belle Bottoms.”

The film features Bottoms as a “modern-day superhero who fights the good fight,” Micheli said.

“It’s a superhero comedy/drama/happiness/sadness, it’s life,” he said. “Everyone’s been picked on at some point in their lives, everyone has been made fun of at some point in their lives. And then they’ve always had a champion to make them feel better about themselves. So basically what I’m doing is telling the all-American story.”

Micheli worked as a flight attendant for 25 years and retired in 2017. He asked himself what he was going to do. His husband suggested he do “drag” because Micheli

had done it on a part-time basis. Now he does it full time.

He served as the emcee at the 2022 festival’s big

filmmakers bash at the District Theater in downtown

Gilroy. He stunned the crowd when he walked on stage in his flamboyant costume, big-hair wig and got plenty

of laughs from his humorous repartee with filmmakers

and members of the audience.

“I had people gawking,” he said. “I walked in and they

thought they were gonna see a big, huge drag queen.

I’m a female impersonator. There’s a difference. Drag

queens’ makeup is usually a little more severe. Female

impersonators, we actually impersonate a female. So,

I’m a man by day and I dress in drag by night.”

“The Adventures of Belle Bottoms” is about making

sure that everyone is made relevant despite how others might judge them, he said.

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