Oak Creek teens leave town behind

Soroco graduates move overseas to start film business

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— Lou Reed's song "Small Town" tells the story of a thousand teen-agers in a thousand towns across America. "When you're growing up in a small town, you say 'no one famous ever came from here.' The only good thing about a small town is you know you have to get out."

And they did.

Christopher Hoffmann, Jed Rodeman, Dan Espinoza and Ryan Watson graduated from Soroco High School in 1996 and immediately went their separate ways.

"None of us are the types to get jobs and sit behind the desk for 15 years working up the promotion ladder," Rodeman said. "We work things out for ourselves.

"Most of us came from single-parent families with free-spirited hippy moms. I guess it rubbed off," he said.

Rodeman is back in Oak Creek for Christmas.

He sat at The Colorado Bar on Thursday telling the story of all that had happened to him and his friends since they left.

"You learn so much when you move away from your circle," he said. "I went to Greeley but I was still around a lot of the same people from my hometown.

"You have to break the mold to find out who you are," he said.

Rodeman moved to Greeley for college. Watson and Hoffmann moved to Texas. They were going to go to school, but out-of-state tuition was too expensive, Rodeman said. So they took jobs as door-to-door vacuum salesmen.

Time passed and school wasn't working out for Rodeman. He came back to Oak Creek with the idea to save money to go to Alaska.

Watson and Espinoza bought cheap tickets to Europe and disappeared for a year.

"Ryan came back in 1998 to Oak Creek and saw me here," Rodeman said. "He said he could get me a job in Prague at a brokerage firm."

That was January. By April, Rodeman was unpacking his bags in Prague.

"It was a crazy summer," he said. "I worked and experimented with life overseas."

But he wasn't very happy at the brokerage firm.

"I was just raising money for someone else," he said.

The gray, gloomy Eastern Europe winter settled onto Prague and Rodeman. Cold and bored, he decided it was time to move.

Espinoza, Watson and Rodeman packed their bags and moved to the beaches of Thailand together.

Rodeman took a job selling timeshares, but Watson left after a year with Mark Phelan, a British addition to the group of guys who had known each other since they were in elementary school.

Watson and Phelan fed off each other's creativity. When they came back to see Rodeman in Thailand a year later, they had news: They had been writing scripts, Rodeman said, and they had an idea.

Cut to Hoffmann. For all the years since selling vacuums in Texas, he had been going to school in New Zealand to become a teacher.

When his old friends from South Routt, Colorado, USA called him with a proposal to move to Prague and start a film production company, his life took an immediate turn away from the classrooms and chalkboards.

In April of this year, the four South Routt boys, Phelan and Jed Rodeman's older brother Nick arrived in Prague one by one.

Nick Rodeman had been living in Oak Creek working a construction job to save money to travel.

"More than anyone else in the group, Nick is not the kind who conforms to anything," Jed Rodeman said. "He has big ideas -- like riding a motorcycle through South America or riding a horse across Siberia -- mostly involving long periods of isolation."

Another dreamer and traveler, Nick Rodeman was a perfect addition to the group.

"We all showed up around the same time," Jed Rodeman said. "Two of us even flew in on the same day without knowing it."

They got an apartment together, rented an office and the film company Year of the Snake was born.

"The name came from years of living in Asia," Rodeman said. "Their astrology wore off on us. Most of us were born in the year of the snake and the company was founded in the year of the snake."

The business is founded on the premise of delegation.

The partners are not filmmakers themselves, but they are fund-raisers who hire crews and provide the film concept and the money.

"We were sick of watching bad movies," Rodeman said. "Hollywood thinks that the public is stupid. They beat the same ideas over and over until they are dead."

Year of the Snake plans to produce independent films that entertain without insulting the audience.

Year of the Snake is sold to shareholders for $750 a share, Rodeman said.

"We started calling locally," he said. To their surprise, people were interested.

The company is officially selling 30 million shares in three offerings.

The first offering is 10,000 shares at $750 apiece, which will cover the first movie.

After the group has proven themselves with the first movie, the second offering will be more expensive, Rodeman said.

"They've been selling a lot faster than we thought they would," Rodeman said. The first offering is 80 percent sold and much of the cast for the first movie is already arranged, he said.

Watson and Phelan wrote their first movie about an English guy, "a slacker," Rodeman said. "He's not going anywhere and he's not too worried about it." Then he comes into a way to make a lot of money. Antics ensue.

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