Hollister residents Nico Quijano and Kaylie Voechting are the main characters and love interests in “Ranger,” which is nearing the end of production and is written, directed and produced by Quijano. Contributed photo

San Benito County and its people, places and institutions could soon be showcased worldwide on the silver screen after local actor, director and producer Nico Quijano and his crew finish up production on the upcoming feature film, “Ranger.” 

Quijano, who is originally from the Bronx, New York and has been a Hollister resident for about the last five years, said he wanted to produce “Ranger” as an homage to the many veterans and friends he has worked and served with over the years in his career in the military, law enforcement, security and the film industry. 

“Ranger”—most of which was filmed at local spots—is also Quijano’s effort to show to the world the unique talent, beauty and openness that the communities of Hollister and San Benito County offer. 

“One of the things I wanted to do was honor my friends in this movie, especially veterans, by having actors play them,” Quijano said in a recent interview. “I wrote the script to give my friends an opportunity to get involved…and give people in Hollister an opportunity. I wanted to give everybody a chance and put veterans to work on this film.”

“Ranger” is the story of the titular character played by Quijano, a U.S. combat soldier who returns home to Texas from the war in Afghanistan. He quickly finds that “everything has changed” back home with crime, human trafficking and economic forces contributing to new dangers and hardships for the local community. Ranger links up with old friends and new acquaintances to combat the evils that threaten to overtake his hometown. 

“Ranger wants to do everything to protect this community,” said Quijano, who noted the story is “based on true events” from his career and life. 

The story is packed with action, fighting, car chases and death-defying stunts—with Quijano performing his own stunts for his character, including a scene where he jumps out of the second story of McKinnon Lumber in Hollister. 

Also a central aspect of “Ranger” is a love story between the main character and “leading lady” Cynthia, played by Hollister resident Kaylie Voechting. The film is Voechting’s acting debut, and Quijano said she steals the show. 

“She’s essentially a badass cowgirl, who will go to the ends of earth to protect and fight for those she loves,” Voechting said. “Cynthia and Ranger knew one another when they were young, but he had to leave her behind to go to war, and now he’s back and things are heating up between them!”

In real life, Voechting, 25, was born and raised in Hollister and went to college at De Anza and Gavilan. She is studying for a career as a state park ranger, and currently works at Hollister Hills OHV Park. 

Voechting said the chance to play the role of Cynthia “fell into my lap.” While acting is not her first choice for a career, she has enjoyed the experience and remains open to future opportunities on the screen or stage. 

“I am an adventurous person who likes to try new things,” she said. “I saw a casting call for extras on Craigslist, and I was intrigued. I submitted headshots from when I did modeling, thinking it wouldn’t go very far, and I was offered the lead role of Cynthia. I was unaware of the importance of Cynthia’s role…until I started filming. Once I knew the role could make or break the movie, I dove headfirst into the role and gave it my all.”

Quijano said of Voechting’s acting prowess, “She’s a natural; she’s really the star of this movie.” 

Most of “Ranger”—specifically the main story that takes place in Texas—is filmed in San Benito County, including at local landmarks such as the Hollister Airport; the 19th Hole in Tres Pinos; Vineyard Estates; TAG Paintball (including the movie’s opening combat scene set in Afghanistan); and Southside Road through Tres Pinos, the scene of a frantic car chase.

Ron Van Clief is pictured during the recent filming of a scene at Vineyard Estates in the movie “Ranger,” which is coming soon to big screens in Hollister and beyond. Contributed photo

At Renz Ranch in southern San Benito County a “huge scene” was filmed with more than 50 actors engaged in a shootout and other chaos, Quijano said. 

Some of the film was shot in Germany. 

The cast of “Ranger” includes Ron Van Clief, a martial arts expert and actor with more than 100 credits; musician JC Smith; and Hollister locals Kirk Disney, Roland Chick, Justin Calamia, Ken Crowe, Franckie Rubio, Mike Carvalho, Raymond Tapia and Shane Rasmussen. 

Quijano’s life and career have been filled with action in their own right, and it’s no wonder the story of “Ranger” is based on real events and circumstances. In the U.S. Army, Quijano served in the special forces (Green Berets) and military intelligence, with overseas tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, Panama, Kosovo, Bosnia and South America. 

He has also worked in law enforcement in New Jersey and Oakland, as an investigator and instructor, he said. He has worked as a private contractor providing security for companies and executives in the U.S. and overseas. 

And he has been active in the film industry for many years as an actor, stuntman, consultant and fight choreographer. “Ranger” will be Quijano’s debut as a director and producer. 

Actors and crew film a scene for “Ranger” at the 19th Hole in Tres Pinos. The bulk of the film’s story takes place in Texas, but is filmed at various locations throughout San Benito County. Contributed photo

Filming for “Ranger” just wrapped up earlier this month. The move is now in the editing and post-production stages, and Quijano hopes to premier it in Hollister in August. 

He has been pitching the movie to various distributors—including Amazon, Netflix and Roku—and “Ranger” has already been accepted to the Urban Film Festival in New York, Quijano said. 

Quijano has lived in Hollister, in the Santana Ranch subdivision, with his wife for about five years. His neighborhood and its surroundings largely inspired his decision to write and produce “Ranger.” 

“This is America, in a sense—my neighborhood has cops, firefighters, veterans,” Quijano said. “We just think Hollister is beautiful, and I thought, ‘I’ve gotta shoot a movie here.’” 

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Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.


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