It all started in a steamy hot tub in Palm Springs.
Married couple Sean Hoessli and Lindie Kuzmich were on vacation celebrating their 19th anniversary with a romantic soak under a cool night sky when an idea surfaced.
That’s when the filmmaking duo decided to make a movie about swingers in Palm Springs.
By: Xochitl Pena
Taken from: Desert Sun
“It’s so pretty here. It’s sexy. It’s hot,” Kuzmich said. “Aesthetically, this place, it’s incomparable to anything else. We just fell in love and we thought ‘Let’s write a movie.’ ”
That was three years ago.
The final touches are now being placed on “Palm Swings,” a movie that follows a young married couple whose relationship gets tested once they discover their neighbors are swingers. It stars Diane Farr of “Numb3rs” fame, Jason Lewis of “Sex and the City” and Tia Carrere of “True Lies” and “Wayne’s World” fame.
The filmmakers, who have since moved to the resort city, have submitted the movie to the Palm Springs International Film Festival and are keeping their fingers crossed it’s accepted. The festival runs Jan. 1-11.
“Certainly we would love nothing more than to premiere in Palm Springs. It’s a huge international film festival. We can’t think of a better place to premiere,” Hoessli said.
This would be his second film to showcase in Palm Springs, if accepted. The American Film Institute grad served as producer on the short “Smoke,” which screened in 2007 at the Palm Springs International Short Film Festival. He has also worked with ILM, one of George Lucas’ former companies on “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace,” providing visual effects production and technical support, and served as a visual effects coordinator on “Sin City” and “Hellboy.”
“Palm Swings” was shot last summer over the course of three weeks and is essentially a love letter to Palm Springs with many iconic landmarks and city staples making it into the film.
They shot footage at Trio, Purple Room, The Chase Hotel, Shag, the windmills, Mitchells, and at several mid-century homes in the city. They even venture outside the city a bit and shot scenes at College of the Desert in Palm Desert and Anahata Springs Spa in Deserts Hot Springs.
The film crew also took over the entire Skylark hotel for the duration of the shoot to film scenes and use it as home base.
Since the production spent more than $25,000 in the city, the project was eligible for and received a $5,000 rebate from the city of Palm Springs through its Film Friendly Incentive program intended to attract more filmmaking to the city.
That type of assistance is significant for a low-budget movie and helped offset the cost of hotel rooms and location fees for the three-week shoot, Hoessli said.
One of the movie’s pivotal scenes — a huge swingers party called “Palm Swings Weekend” hosted by Carrere’s character Cherry Bomb — takes place at the Skylark and features the stars and about 100 extras.
“We had several nights of big scenes with extras where people just came for free, they danced and just wanted to be in the movie,” Hoessli said. “We shot every corner of this hotel, in the rooms outside the rooms. Behind the lockers. We were everywhere.”
In addition to filming local, the movie’s soundtrack was produced by local talent Rafael Lopez, a DJ known as Alf Alpha who serves on the board of directors at The Coachella Valley Art Scene and has performed at the annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio.
The filmmakers discovered Lopez online before ever seeing him in person. When they heard his music, they said it was the sound they were looking for: contemporary, cool, hip and with a desert vibe.
Lopez, a seasoned DJ, said he was excited to work on his first movie score, especially on one that hit so close to home.
“This is my hood. I was born in Palm Springs and when projects like this come in to town, I definitely want to get involved and make sure it has an authentic feel,” he said.
Lopez said his goal through the process was to set the right mood for each scene. And to do that, he had to meticulously go “scene by scene.”
“I had to watch it over and over … some scenes, I’ve seen 100 times,” Lopez said.
To complete the movie soundtrack, Lopez enlisted the help of his friends, The Evaros. The opening track is a collaboration between Gabriela Evaro, Gene Evaro Jr., and Lopez with Gabriela on vocals and Gene and Lopez on production. And the closing track is a collaboration between Gene and Lopez with Gene on vocals.
“They’re a legendary Palm Springs family. Their family was signed to Motown at one point. They were kind of like the Jackson 5, but Palm Springs’ version. I wanted to ... have them as part of the soundtrack as well,” Lopez said.
In developing the idea for “Palm Swings,” the filmmakers were trying to match a story that they thought fit Palm Springs.
Hoessli is a fan of the romance genre — his first movie was a romance — and so they settled on the idea of a married couple and the consequences they face after they find out their neighbors are swingers and decide to experiment in that lifestyle. They enlisted AFI graduate Amanda Lockhart to write the script, while Hoessli served as director and Kuzmich as one of several producers.
“We live in a very diverse community. That’s what we love about Palm Springs. We don’t believe in judging people. And it’s not a movie about judgment. It’s about different lifestyles. But at the heart of it, it’s a love story. And that’s the key,” Hoessli said.
The filmmakers of course did their share of research on swingers and discovered a wealth of folks who participate in that lifestyle across the country and globe — including Palm Springs — but noticed they are typically “underground.”
“They’re everywhere,” Hoessli said. “And we really wanted to make a movie about sexual relations and a mature movie about what couples and adults go through, particularly when they’ve been in a marriage for a while, and about trust, honesty and commitment and all the hiccups that come with it.”
The movie is also from a female perspective as it relates to sex, something that Hoessli thinks is unique in Hollywood. And he said it’s very much a mature romance, not sophomoric in nature.
“We wanted to flip the script. This is her story — the main character, Allison. It’s a sensual movie, but again, we think it will appeal to men and women and couples across the board because they can really see themselves in the movie,” he said.
The filmmakers had such a great experience shooting their first movie in Palm Springs, they plan to use the city as a backdrop in future projects as well.
“We have other things we’re writing. A movie, a television series we’d like to shoot here that I think the Palm Springs community would really, really love. We want to do more movies here and show different aspects of how great this city is,” Hoessli said.