Casting (around)(2)

Ryan Harper Gray in character as Curtis

I met Ryan in a bar in Austin, maybe in 2002.  I’d screened 6 Easy Pieces, not exactly an actor’s film, and he’d liked it.  I don’t recall meeting him at all – though I do remember going to a bar in Austin (where, apparently I also me Rachelle LeValle, who ended up playing with Ryan in Parable).   It isn’t that I got drunk or anything, just a lot of travel and meeting a lot of new people scrambles my brains, it seems.   After that Ryan pestered me on the internet, asking to work with me.  Not usually a good approach for me.  In 2004, as I was preparing to shoot a new film in Newport, Oregon, Ryan pressed harder.   I finally relented and told him to send a few pictures, but admonished him that if he sent an industry-style headshot, I could guarantee him I would not work with him.  I suggested some casual snapshots.   He sent some on the internet and I found his look, and perhaps his persistence, interesting.  I showed the pictures to Kate Sannella, whose house I was staying in and who would be in the film, and she nodded: interesting.   So I told Ryan if he’d get himself up to Portland I’d grab him at the airport, and if I thought he was good in front of the camera, he’d get some kind of role, and if not, maybe he could help me otherwise.  And I said if we didn’t hit it off, or he was useless, I’d tell him to leave.  On those terms he got a ticket to fly up from Austin, and I met him in Portland and we headed down to Newport.   As I’d done the route many times, I decided to take a new road, smaller, just to see some other landscapes.  I did a wrong turn, and we ended doing about 30 miles on muddy logger’s roads through a mess of clear-cut devastation.  Welcome to Oregon!  But the detour gave us time to talk and by the time we pulled up to Kate’s house, I’d concluded maybe this was a good deal.   Ryan turned out good on camera, and about 20-30% of the way through the film it became clear the film was focused on his character.  So for his pestering he landed a lead role, and I got a very good performance (along with all the others), and a good film out of it.  And a friend.   The film, Homecoming, was invited to the Venice Film Festival, and Ryan and Steve Taylor, also in the film, on their own tabs, went with me for a little taste of film world glitz and glamor.  They had a great time – it’s not my kind of thing, so for me it was “business.”   Ok, fun too, but mostly a job.

Subsequently, the film won first prize in the little festival in Split, Croatia – but no American festival deigned to screen the film, and for all practical purposes it has been unseen here.  I take it as an indication of the political winds of the time – with the Iraq war in full bloom, Bush riding high, and the nature of programmers.  The film ends with a crawl calling for the indictment of Bush, Cheney et al for war crimes.

Ryan in Homecoming

Ryan, in Over Here

Ryan in Parable

A few years later, living in Portland, I decided to make another film addressing the Iraq war, and its impact on the USA, and I asked Ryan if he’d like to play the lead.  I said I’d pay for the airfare this time.  He came up from Dallas, where he was then living, and in a much shorter time, we made Over Here, where again he gave a really good performance.  This film was shown at festivals abroad, but again, no US takers.    In 2007 making another film, Parable, I asked Ryan if he’d come up to Lincoln Nebraska to do a lesser role, and he obliged me.

This past spring, in Stanberry Missouri, I shot a film, Ghosts of Empire Prairie, for my friend Blake Eckard, and also acted in it – with Ryan, who was cast in the lead.   Had a great time, and while there asked if he’d join me on making a new film, setting at the time unclear.  He said yes, and I’m very glad he did.

Roxanne Rogers

I don’t really recall how I met Roxanne, though I imagine it was through Jim Bauerlein, way the hell back in 1983.  I’d gone to San Francisco with some modest money in my pockets from some sales of early films to the UK’s Channel Four.  I had a thought to make a vicious satire of Walt Disney, and Jim was going to be my lead – a spy guy.  But on arriving Jim had left the Bay Area to study philosophy at UCSD.  Instead of finding a replacement for him, I did a kind of mental U-turn, and decided to make a completely other film, for which I had almost no ideas at all.  I asked Roxanne if she’d be in it, and also Marshall Gaddis, who is not an actor and was holed up in the Sierra foothills trying to write a book while care-taking a friend’s house.  They both said yes, and I gave them some ideas about characters and asked them to work on it.  I didn’t let them meet each other at all until the first shot of the film, in the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge.   Owing to reality we basically had 4 days to shoot the film:  we started on a Friday morning on the bridge.  My attitude was that if the first scene didn’t work out, we’d just stop and not make a film.  But it came out well, so we did two more scenes that day, another in the city the next day, and drove out to the Sacramento Delta for more, and finally on Sunday to the Sierra foothills.  We shot virtually all of the film in 3 and a half days.  One scene came out badly (my lousy idea the cause) and we re-shot a completely different version a week later, and I got a handful of pickup shots.  Total shooting time for the whole film was 5 days or so.   It’s title was Slow Moves.   It won first prize at the San Remo festival in Italy, showed around in some festivals and got broadcast on WNET in New York.

Roxanne in opening scene of Slow Moves

Roxanne in Slow Moves

Roxanne was great in it, under incredible pressure (as was Marshall, never mind what some friends of mine thought about him and his performance).   A few years later we tried again, in Ronan Montana – a film (one of the very few) which blew up in my face, and which never got finished.  It’s collapse had nothing to do with Roxanne, who was a trouper throughout.   Since then we stayed, until the internet, in fitful touch.  Though I haven’t seen her in years, I thought somehow she’d fit in here.   I get her in Bozeman on the 5th of August.

Steve Taylor, in character as Patrick

I met Steve on the internet – in the late 90’s a magazine (is it still around), called DV, asked me to moderate a forum on-line for them, and I took the offer.  If I recall I got some pittance of money for doing so ($50 a month?).  The forum worked nicely, but when a corporate take-over of the magazine resulted in a shift of policy where they’d want money, the more active members of my forum decided we should take things into our own hands and do it ourselves.  Which we did, under the banner of Cinemaelectronica.   Steve was one of the more active participants, and when I decided to return to the USA from Europe, after a 10 year absence, and decided to head for the Pacific Northwest, Steve offered to lend a hand.  He picked me up at Seatac, put me up in his home in Port Angeles, loaned me his pick up to look around for a place and car, and otherwise was as helpful as one could be.  Well beyond the call of duty, and he had no duty to me at all.

Steve had spent a few years in Hollywood chasing his acting dreams, and like many, he’d decided to call it quits after a bit too much casting couch approaches, and a few minutes screen time in stupid TV things.   He returned to school and got certified as some kind of psychiatrist/therapy thing, and began working in that.  He now has his own practice.   In Port Angeles he did community theater and kept his hand in, and was also out to make some films himself.   When I started to work on Homecoming, he indicated he’d like to be in it, and I said OK, come on down.  As it happened he could only do so for a very short while, a single day – but in that day he carved out a sizable bit of the film for himself.  I never count up screen time, but he’s up there a good bit. Certainly more screen time on that film than in his whole Hollywood career. And he was great, and, like Roxanne was in Slow Moves, under the gun of a lot of time pressure he delivered.   So when I decided to do Over Here, I asked him if he could come down to Portland for it and he jumped at it.  We had a little more time (not much) and again, he really worked out well for the film.  A year later I asked him if he could come to Nebraska and do a film there, something very very nebulous in my mind, and with a considerably larger piece of time he gave a really fine performance in Parable – as it turned out, a lead role.   Again, he was great.   So when this film came around, well….

Steve as social worker/therapist in Homecoming

As copywriter in Over Here

As redneck slave-keeper in Parable

I may add a few local people to the stew here in Butte, don’t know yet.  If so they’ll be small roles.  Of those I’ve noted here, they’ve all – except for Jim Benning – worked with me before, under the same lousy no-pay conditions.  I wish I could pay – they deserve it.  But I guess they understand the circumstances and despite the “no market” reality of this kind of filmmaking they’re game to give their time and energy to it.  Without them I could not do this kind of work, plain and simple.  We are, in our own warped fashion, family.  Which is what this film will be about.

[Note: in 3 weeks or so we’ll be doing a Kickstarter or IndieGoGo effort, and if you can help, please do.]

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