Many nudists have also pointed out a few behavioral faux pauxs as well, such as not having the nude actors sitting on their towels, and seeing people drinking from glass beer bottles in the pool/hot tub area. (The director insists the bottles were plastic, but they sure clinked like glass in the movie!) The major behavioral faux paux is having the Bear Lakes staff constantly badgering the two sisters to remove their clothing. In most parks today, staff would not be so rude, especially when the newcomers where the new park owners!
Despite these annoying script errors, the nudist community has come to embrace the film. The amenities of Olive Dell Ranch in Colton, where it was filmed, is depicted quite nicely with its quaint birdhouse cabins and rolling green hills. The “river” scenes were filmed at Deep Creek, a popular nudist hot springs about an hour north of Olive Dell.
The actors seem just fine appearing comfortably nude for most of the film, despite some visible tan lines. The director obviously went to great length to not film their pubic areas by using clever camera angles and strategically placed plants, computers, and towels. To his credit, he didn’t use pixilation or blurring, which are anathema to nudists. That said, there are plenty of breasts and butt shots to adequately convey the fact we are visiting a nudist park.
The film is well supported by three veteran character actors, who give the script some gravitas. Susan May Pratt (Open Water 2, 10 Things I Hate About You) plays Kristi, the perky general manager whose personal journey to body acceptance because of her scars from a fire adds depth to her commitment to keeping Bare Creek open. Rob Roy Fitzgerald, a fine character actor (Thelma & Louise, Saving Grace) plays the on-site lawyer, Rusty, with just the right amount of ham. Another well-known face, Alan Cox (Young Sherlock Holmes, Frost/Nixon) plays Cory, the gay cook with a nice comic touch without going “over the top.”
Rounding out the supporting characters are Josh McVaney as Trevor (Leah’s love interest), Sandi Alexandru (who is also co-producer) as Natalie, the housekeeper, and Courtney Abbott as Lauren, the lifeguard (who had the affair with the sisters’ father.) Some of the film’s serious moments explore these characters and their individual reasons for choosing to live in a nudist environment. As such, the script succeeds in an honest depiction of what typical nudists really are like, while avoiding the defensive preachy-ness found in earlier nudist movies as Educating Julie.
A number of real-life Olive Dell nudists fill in the background: David Cheek shows us his butt walking past the sisters in several scenes, Becki Kilborn is seen enthusiastically twirling a hula hoop, and Bobby Kilborn, Olive Dell’s owner, is seen cheerfully mowing his lawn alongside Bare Creek’s restaurant, named “Fudists” (is that bad pun the best the script writers could come up with?).
I may be nit-picking here, but I found the soundtrack choices quite inconsistent. There is an abundance of lighter instrumentals that fit the Bare Creek lifestyle well early in the film (and should have been continued throughout), but it gives way to darker vocal tracks later by Laura Threk and Sahah Hotsschlog later that seem out of place. An example of a weird choice of lyrics, sung to the sound of a heavy rhythmic drumbeat: “If you’re gonna shoot me, shoot me in a red dress, If you’re gonna shoot me at all.” I am sure the soundtrack will appeal to the younger viewers. But this is essentially a comedy, and music tracks are poorly chosen for the on-screen moment.
Also the secondary track containing the comments of both the director and the cast comes across more like a reunion party, rather than containing much useful information about how the film was made and the struggles the team encountered getting it filmed over an 18-month period with numerous re-takes and production challenges. This was an opportunity lost to educate other independent filmmakers about the nuts and bolts of putting together a film with little money and a cast that hung in out of loyalty.
In 2011, after the final edits were made, the producers found they could not get any studios interested in distributing the film. So they embarked on a nationwide series of premier showings at rented local theaters to drum up local enthusiasm. Despite winning the Audience Choice award at the 6th Annual United Film Festival in Los Angeles in 2011 and then doing it again in London, Riley and the others still could not find a buyer. The film has gone straight to DVD.
Despite its predictable script and other annoyances cited above, Act Naturally is definitely worth supporting. I encourage everyone to go to the Act Naturally Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/actnaturallymovie to purchase a copy so these courageous producers and actors and make their money back. Hopefully their success may encourage other film producers to address the subject matter again in the future.
The American Association for Nude Recreation - Western Region