Three Strong Women Discuss Three Strong But Very Different Films
By Anita Gomez Guest Columnist
2014 was an eventful year for filming in Southern Oregon. Scores of productions were shot in various locations, furthering the area’s reputation for quality film and media production and contributing to MovieMaker Magazine naming Ashland, Oregon, as the #1 Town to Live and Work as a Moviemaker in the U.S. in 2015. Three of those productions are feature films now in the final stages of post-production, all very different in their genre, from lively comedy to sci-fi thriller to hard-hitting documentary. What they all have in common, however, is that all three were produced by very experienced and capable women.
Black Road is a noir drama produced by Anne Lundgren, principal of the Ashland-based production company JOMA Films. Brother in Laws is an SNL comedy from Lorne Michaels’ Broadway Video production company, line produced by Jenny Hinkey. The third film is When Giants Fall, a feature-length documentary by Emmy Award-winning producer Leslie Griffith. These three women discussed their experiences for Media Inc. readers.
BROTHER IN LAWS
Jenny Hinkey, Line Producer
As a line producer, Jenny Hinkey functions as the key manager during the daily operations of a film. She has the primary responsibility for the logistics of the production, and worked directly with executive producer Lorne Michaels. Shooting a full-length feature film on location (as opposed to a tidy soundstage) has its challenges, especially a film calling for a remote, rustic cabin.
When asked why Southern Oregon was chosen as a location, Hinkey said, “Most of the film is set in a family vacation house on a lake. Lake of the Woods was the perfect location for our film. We also needed to be close enough to a small town for additional scenes and Klamath Falls fit the bill perfectly.”
Brother in Laws was shot for 20 days entirely on location from mid-August through September 2014. Arranging for meals and accommodations for the large cast of 50 and crew size of 70 was no easy task. The town of Klamath Falls is not particularly large, but the community worked closely with the filmmakers to comfortably provide for the group and all of their needs.
Hinkey said that other than a few key people brought up from L.A., they were able to find all the crew and equipment they needed locally. This included camera, grip and electric, and all the costumes, which came from Oregon. The production did need to ship in a handful of props from Seattle, and a few other hard-to-find items were sent up from L.A.
Hinkey described the experience by saying, “I loved it! It was fantastic. Everyone in the city was so accommodating. And it was super affordable. Really a surprising number of looks for such a small town. All the locations and all the people we encountered—from Rooster’s Steak House to local community leaders—were great to work with.”
When asked if Hinkey would like to shoot again in Southern Oregon, she replied with a resounding, “Absolutely! I would encourage any filmmaker to go to Southern Oregon to film.”
She added with a laugh, “Just watch out for the deer while driving around Lake of the Woods!”
Brother in Laws stars Bill Pullman, Rita Wilson and Saturday Night Live regulars Taran Killam, Kenan Thompson and Bobby Moynihan. Paramount will announce the release date soon.
Anne Lundgren, Producer
Filmed over the course of 21 production days in July and August 2014 and in 20 different locations from Ashland to the coast, Black Road is the quintessential example of an indie film. The crew was “small but mighty,” numbering just 15. The full cast of 14 is composed of 10 locals, with only 4 hired from L.A. Black Road’s production budget was completed with a successful Kickstarter campaign, which raised approximately $46,000 from 365 backers in 30 days.
The film’s Kickstarter page describes the feature film as follows:
“In 2049 a cyborg drifter risks his life to protect a woman from her evil ex in the lawless State of Jefferson. With an A.I. implant in his head, DYLAN has a virtual companion and moral compass as his situation spirals out of control. At the heart of this movie is a simple story of desire and disillusionment. Our hero craves a stable life, satisfying work and meaningful relationships…but he’s in trouble – caught between $18M in gold, a femme fatale and the maniac who wants her dead.”
Producer Anne Lundgren explains that she and her husband, writer/director Gary Lundgren, were able to tackle the production challenges because their small band of production crew is a tight team who have worked together many times before.
“It’s like family,” said Anne Lundgren. “It’s amazingly beautiful when you are able to put a team together that you love working with. There are a lot of really talented, passionate, professional people who live here.”
As for equipment, Lundgren said they had everything they needed locally. “Except for one lens we had to rent online, 99.9 percent of the gear was from here.” She added, “Out-of-town producers would be surprised by the full range of resources, support and infrastructure available to them here. It’s grown so much in just the last few years.”
JOMA Films and the Lundgrens are currently focused on getting Black Road finished and distributed. They are aiming for a release date of Fall 2015, after which they are planning a full slate of films for the coming years. Two prior features done by the Lundgrens in Southern Oregon are Calvin Marshall (2009) and Redwood Highway (2014).
WHEN GIANTS FALL
Leslie Griffith, Producer, Director, Writer
“One hundred years ago, an estimated ten million African elephants roamed the continent. Today there are less than four hundred thousand. Caught between bloody civil wars and a lust for money, African elephants struggle to survive a seemingly insatiable global demand for ivory.”
Thus reads the website summary of the documentary When Giants Fall, about to be released by Leslie Griffith. Griffith is a journalist whose career in newspaper, radio and television has spanned three decades. She has earned 9 Emmys and 37 Emmy nominations. In 2005, The Humane Society of the United States awarded Griffith with the National Genesis Award for exposing abuse at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
In 2013, Griffith moved from the California Bay Area to the small picturesque town of Jacksonville, Oregon. When asked, “Why here?”, Griffith explained, “For the peace. Traveling between the U.S. and Africa—with all its stress and sadness—left me in need of quiet.”
When Griffith moved to Southern Oregon, she specifically sought a house on a hill. She said she needed an open, expansive view to write. And indeed, looking out from her backyard with Mount McLoughlin in the background, it’s easy to conjure up Mount Kenya or Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro, both of which appear in Griffith’s film.
Griffith explained that watching the African elephants disappear is very tragic. But she believes there is a kindness that will be reflected in the film that may not have been there if produced in a city with the hard edges of a fast-paced life. “The area takes the edges off those rough spots.” Griffith continued, “When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I hike the Britt trails and feel renewed.”
Griffith returned from her multiple trips to Africa with over 100 hours of film, hiring local crew to help her log, transcribe, research and ultimately edit the documentary. Other than special graphics out of San Francisco, and the final highly specialized post-production stages of audio sweetening and color-correction, Griffith has done all of her post-production work in Southern Oregon.
“I have found here every bit the talented people as the filmmakers I knew in San Francisco and L.A. But often I find the people here in Southern Oregon have a calmer demeanor.” Griffith added, “I think the ease of lifestyle helps. And I’m grateful for that inherent gentleness of character because of working on such a heavy topic. A project like this is so intense.”
When asked if she was planning on staying in Southern Oregon once her film was completed, Griffith said, “I can’t imagine ever leaving here. I have spent my life traveling. And the Rogue Valley is as beautiful as any place I’ve been.”
When Giants Fall is set to release in Spring 2015.
2015 is already looking like another busy year for Southern Oregon. The local film professional association and film liaison, Southern Oregon Film and Media, expects the region’s designation as a number one place to live and work as a filmmaker will bolster production activity even further.
For information on filming in Southern Oregon, contact Southern Oregon Film and Media via their website (www.filmsouthernoregon.org) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Anita Gomez is a freelance writer living in Grants Pass, OR.