Some films can take you to the corner of the earth and back. Others can keep you local. The experience can be long, ironic and unpredictable but in the end, there’s always a story. A few weeks ago, I hit the road with my good friend and filmmaker, AA to premiere his new film Winter Storm at the Arizona International Film Festival. It was a weekend away from the hounds of LA (long overdue) and we were excited about the road ahead. We’d taken a similar trip to Phoenix a few years back and just like the last time, we got excited as soon as Don Quixote’s dreamscape appeared past the hill:
The windmills were just what we needed, and our imaginations were finally set free (bouncing with ease inside our compact rental car). It released us into vacation mode and and we rebooted our minds with story ideas and career mantras the rest of the way to Arizona. The seven hours it took to get to Tucson went by in no time. Once we arrived in town, we abandoned our iPhones and decided to explore the neighborhood fare. We ended up on the wrong side of town but managed to consume a meal o’ local grease (with food on the side). After we dined, we discovered a cultural landmark at the local supermarket:
After we had a chance to settle in, we arrived at the festival’s opening night gala. They handed out complimentary rootbeer floats and then showed a charming feature called The Story of Luke (highly recommend it). The next morning, we had a great time connecting with other filmmakers and their iPhones. We got a chance to explore the town and saw some great old sites. Instagramming madness ensued. When it finally came time for Winter Storm to premiere, we had nestled in quite nicely and were enjoying the Tucson experience (especially the free hotel WiFi that allowed us to continue updating our Instagram accounts). The most important thing was that the film played well and the reactions were encouraging. Take a peek if you haven’t already:
During a Q & A session, AA mentioned his ability to attract unexpected weather on the set of his films. Not only while shooting Winter Storm, but on his prior effort, June Gloom (see last year’s trip). At one point, someone clever suggested, “You guys might want to consider making a movie in sunny weather instead!” That drew a minor chuckle from the crowd. AA’s laugh was late to form but it came through. I wanted to respond with, “This is indie film, schmucko, where sunny days turn into rainstorms. So don’t piss down our back and tell us it’s rainin’!” But instead we smiled and I even said, “Great idea, buddy!” Either way, we all had a good time. Winter Storm had left its mark.
On the drive home, we talked about the films and the people we met. For the most part, we were making decent time. We stopped once for coffee (our default savior on every journey to and from nowhere) and another time at a gas station where we watched for cops and drank a celebratory beer. Hours later, we were finally getting closer to home. Once we reached the outskirts of Coachella, we started to experience a whole new kind of problem… WIND. The only condition our films had not truly prepared us for. In a matter of minutes, the sand along the highway was obscuring our view. Our compact rental felt like a guppy in a whirlpool – no fun. Engaging in an barrage of delirious commentary to best enjoy our predicimant, we struggled to drive through the windy deluge.
The whole time I expected to get blown off the road. We had the vents closed to shut out the air. Maybe it was the lack of fresh oxygen, but I kept hearing that guy from our screening repeat his genius reminder, “You guys might want to consider making a movie in sunny weather instead!” The visibility was brutal, but somehow our crappy rental car braved the powerful winds. The traffic had definitely slowed but it never stalled completely. It was only until we reached our favorite landmark, when we realized that the windmills had our back.
Passing by the majestic field of white propellers, we watched the sand particles loosen mid-air. Before we knew it, the traffic had cleared. It was pretty incredible. We made it home alive and in a daze about what we had just seen. With our lack of sleep, we felt as giddy as Don Quixote. Nothing could stop us. It was our way or the highway. Two filmmakers and their duty… “to dream the impossible dream.”