‘Sironia’ makes theater debut in Waco

Wes Cunningham is seen as ‘Thomas Fisher’ (Left) and Ryan Cartwright as ʻNickʼ in SIRONIA, directed by Brandon Dickerson.
Photo Courtesy of Sirona

By Connor Yearsley


Sometimes the little guys still get their big day.

The Waco-made film “Sironia” will be screened from Friday to Oct. 4 at the Hollywood Jewel Theater on Woodway Drive.

The movie will also be shown at 7 p.m. today in 101 Castellaw Communications Center as part of the Texas Independent Film Network film series. The screening will be followed by a Q-and-A with co-writer Wes Cunningham and director/co-writer Brandon Dickerson, as well as a Common Grounds performance by Cunningham at 9:30 p.m. following the screening.

Thomas Ward and Dickerson were inspired by the story and music of their friend, Wes Cunningham. Ward taught acting at Baylor from 2006 to 2012 and co-wrote the film.

“It’s about a singer/songwriter living in Los Angeles who gets fed up with the industry and makes a last-minute decision to move with his pregnant wife to Sironia, Texas,” Ward said.

Although the film is fictionalized, there’s a lot in it that’s drawn from Cunningham’s career and experience.

A Texas native, Cunningham has released multiple albums with much critical success. He has toured with the likes of Jason Mraz, Joe Cocker and blues legend Buddy Guy. He has also written several film and TV scores and acted in several movies.

The film’s title, “Sironia,” was borrowed from the 1952 novel by Madison Cooper. Both the film and the novel are set in fictional Sironia, a thinly disguised Waco.

Ward said shooting in Waco, where most of “Sironia” was filmed, was great.

“We got to use locations that we wrote into the script. There are scenes at Common Grounds and all over town. It was fantastic,” he said.

Ward said the film is relatable to everyone since it deals with how success is defined and how to prevent circumstances from dictating happiness. He said he thinks it’s a common human desire to have ambition and want to succeed and achieve recognition in a chosen field, and the film addresses that as well.

“It’s about when what you think you wanted turns out to not be the most important thing,” Ward said.

Ward said he’s very happy with the way the movie turned out.

“I really love it,” he said. “The experience of writing it was fantastic. The fact that it got made was just unbelievable. The more I see it the more pleased I am.”

Ward also said he’s very pleased with the reception the movie’s gotten.

“It’s been amazing,” he said. “Every screening I’ve been to, it’s been a hit. The audiences love it and love Wes’ music. I come from the theater so I’m used to being able to make changes, but with a movie, when it’s made, it’s made. I’m very pleased with the feedback it’s gotten and the audience response.”

“Sironia” was first premiered at the Austin Film Festival in October 2011 and won the Audience Award for Texas Independent Film.

“It was such a lightning-in-a-bottle kind of experience. I can’t think of anything I would change about it. We were so blessed and lucky that we even got to make the movie,” Ward said.

Ward said he hopes audiences enjoy the movie.

“First and foremost, I want it to be entertaining,” Ward said. “I want them to enjoy the story and the characters and to leave a Wes Cunningham fan.”

He also said he hopes they’ll leave thinking about their priorities and being satisfied and at peace with where they’re at in their lives.

Ward said he loves Cunningham’s music and that you can hear the influence of the Beatles in it.

“I’d describe Wes’ music as melodic and catchy with deeply poetic and challenging lyrics,” he said.

The movie isn’t available to own yet.

“I can’t wait,” Ward said. “The day that I get to see the movie on my Netflix screening queue is going to be pretty exciting.”

The showing in Castellaw Communications Center and Cunningham’s performance at Common Grounds are free and open to the public.

The showings at the Hollywood Jewel Theater will be at regular admission prices.

Check www.gohollywood.com for show times and ticket info.