Local filmmaker Nick DeRuve always admired Ron Artest’s work on the basketball court.
Growing up in Niskayuana, DeRuve followed the young power forward while he was with St. John’s University and continued after Artest was drafted by the National Basketball Association’s Chicago Bulls in 1999. DeRuve even sported the number 15 on his own basketball jersey — the same digits Artest wore through college.
“This dude was my favorite player,” he said Thursday.
And that’s why DeRuve was all the more awestruck when Artest — now known as Metta World Peace — agreed to help financially support a motion picture he’s been planning since last year. World Peace confirmed Thursday he’s signed on as the executive producer of “Electric City,” a full-length motion picture DeRuve plans to start filming in Schenectady during the late spring or early summer.
“This film speaks to the importance of family and accepting people and situations as they are, and given our country’s current economic situation, I think this is a powerful story that a lot of people will relate to,” said World Peace, who now plays with the Los Angeles Lakers, in a statement released Wednesday. “I’m thrilled to be a part of this project.”
DeRuve’s project is one he’s mulled since his teenage years growing up in the Schenectady area. The film tells the story of Tammy, a mother of three facing an eviction notice, and how her children react to save the dysfunctional family from certain ruin.
The film is set to star Joey Lauren Adams, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for her role in Kevin Smith’s “Chasing Amy” in 1997. Also cast are Liz Mikel, who stars on television’s “Friday Night Lights,” and Emma Holzer, who appears in the recently released film, “Spring Breakers.”
“It’s a good group of actors,” said Don Rittner, who heads the New York Capital District Film Community and has agreed to help DeRuve scout locations throughout Schenectady. “It’ll be a major movie.”
A 2003 graduate of Niskayuna High School who attended film school at C.W. Post College on Long Island, DeRuve has been steadily building recognition for his filmmaking. In 2011, his film “Dr. Thompson” was shown at the Burbank International Film Festival and awarded best student film.
DeRuve also produced a short film that was an official selection of Festival de Cannes Short Film Corner last year. The piece also was awarded best student film at the LA Film and Script Festival in April.
DeRuve had several casting calls for his new project last year, including two in this area, but wasn’t able to move very far without funding. He said many of the actors who signed on to the film did so simply because of the merit of the script.
“This script we have is really something special,” he said. “All these people are here because the material is that strong.”
DeRuve said the script is also what enticed Metta World Peace into financing the project. He said the basketball star was moved by the script, which reminded him of his own hard-scrabble upbringing in Queens.
“The script really relates to him and that world,” he said. “He’s not in it for money.”
The production will follow the premiere of Derek Cianfrance’s “The Place Beyond the Pines” — a major Hollywood production that was shot around Schenectady in 2011. “Electric City” will be smaller than “The Pines” and have only a fraction of its budget.
Still, DeRuve envisions shopping the film at major festivals around the globe in the hope of getting a distribution company to sign on. For now, just getting the chance to shoot a full-length feature in Schenectady is a dream come true.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to shoot a film in the neighborhood I grew up in,” he said.