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Drama Teacher Makes A Movie
A Riverbank resident and drama teacher has made a movie - with some professional help - and is hoping to get the independent film chosen for the big silver screen or maybe just a DVD.

Susan Romero has lived in Riverbank since 1996 when she joined the staff at Somerset Middle School in Modesto, where she has been teaching drama since 2000. She was named Stanislaus County Teacher of the Year in 2005.

The movie titled 'Spot Check' is a comedy chronicling the escapades of a lonely, 14-year-old child prodigy who goes off to college to discover his true self. It is based on a water game called Assassination, which has long been played by high schoolers in the Central Valley but for the movie is translated to the college scene.

Romero shot the movie over 14 hectic days last summer using Central Valley locations and her current and former students with a few professional actors in lead parts. Funded by some businesspeople, she also hired some camera crews and experts in cinematography from San Francisco and Los Angeles.

"We shot the whole thing between July 23 and Aug. 11. I was writer, director and producer rolled into one," she said. "And I'm still editing. I work all day at school, then come home and edit film until 11 at night. It's enough to age a woman."

The shooting locations included Delta College in Stockton that masqueraded as the campus of the movie's Central California University, The Sports Bar and the Palladium Night Club and Tresetti's Restaurant in Modesto.

The lead character named Jesus or "Chuy" Vasquez is played by Luis Alberto Rodriguez, whom Romero termed an aspiring professional actor from Los Angeles. This is his first real film although he has played in a documentary.

Vasquez's sidekick, however, named Niccolo is portrayed by Branden Lewis, a former student of Romero who graduated from Somerset Middle School in 2005.

Other former students of hers appearing in the film include the "church girls" Trisha Johnson and Katie Kale, Jordan Mills, and Shannon Blevins.

Another professional player is Gio, an Asian girl from San Francisco who has appeared in television on the programs ER, Bones and Gilmore Girls.

This is Romero's first attempt at movie making. She's finding it exhausting and complicated.

"We're hoping to get it distributed. We will take it on the festival circuit. We're hoping for a theater release. But it has to be picked up and cleaned up by professionals first. Some movies nowadays never reach the big screen but go straight to DVD. You may see it in Blockbuster."

"Chuy" Vasquez, according to the plot synopsis, "is a sheltered, well behaved Mexican-American boy embarking on his solo collegiate experience with fortitude. But a typically boring afternoon at CCU becomes anything but when he succumbs to pressure and joins Team MGM (Mentally Gifted Minors) in the prestigious campus-wide water game of Assassination. Sixteen cutthroat teams from all walks of campus life battle for the coveted trophy, prestige, and the ten thousand dollars."

The plot also includes Chuy being introduced to some other facets of college life and a final game showdown with a rival team.