Synopsis: A modern businessman strands himself on a desert highway only to be saved by rescuers who are more in touch with humanity than he is.
Where did the idea for this film come from?
I've hitchhiked all over the world and found kindness and kind people in every nook and cranny of every continent I've wandered across. Many of those I encountered, some for a few moments, some for a few days, have made a deep impression on me. In fact, it's safe to say their kindness, benevolence and generosity have become part of my soul. Many years later, Marc and I were having a pity party, commiserating about our individual plights through the muck and misery of the film business. I've always admired Marc's acting and I've always wanted to direct him. So to cheer him up, I said I'd write something for him, then produce and direct it. That way we'd both have something positive to do with ourselves instead of sitting around waiting for the phone to ring. It's like they say: this isn't a race, it's a marathon. It's only the first 25 years of your film career that are the toughest. In the meantime, make your own work. So that's what we did, we made our own work.
The actors give wonderful performances. How did you come across the lead actor Marc Jablon and how did you cast the two girls?
Marc is a dear friend and fellow actor whom I met in grad school at the University of Washington's Professional Actor Training Program. We've been driving each other crazy ever since. The two girls (Luciana and Hailey) I met through an audition. Of the nearly 50 girls we saw that day, Luciana and Hailey were instantly my favorites. I had asked all the girls to improvise with me and Luciana had no trouble bearing her soul. She has great eyes, beautiful and expressive, and an innate sense of story that informed all of her choices. She was like a quarterback moving the ball down the field quickly and efficiently, knowing when to pass and when to run. When I watched the tape later that night, her audition made my hair stand up. I only regret that we didn't get to show more of her in the film. But it's no matter as I'm sure we'll be seeing Luciana elsewhere. As for Hailey, she came in the room with a big smile, crooked teeth and two great-big chocolate marble eyes and was so sweet, she instantly gave me a cavity. I knew right away I had to work with these two girls. The problem was that we only needed one. I spoke to Diana Dotter, our executive producer, and she agreed to find the money so that we could add a sibling and use both girls, which was also useful to the story. It makes sense that this family would have 2 or even 3 children. Besides, nothing steals an audience's heart like a super-cute kid, especially when she can act. Knowing that, we doubled-down and put 200 pounds of cute, effervescent talent in two 60-pound bags.
The film comes across very American in style. What films and filmmakers inspired this film?
Once cinematographer Jaffe Zinn and I started talking through the shots, the look and feel of the film, only one spiritual liaison came to mind: Sergio Leone. Many times we asked ourselves, what would Sergio Leone do? El Camino Solo is our answer.
Where this film is seems as important as what it is about. How did you pick the location?
Jaffe and I took an ounce of weed, a tank of gas and a couple of 160gig iPods around Washington state looking for the worst possible place to run out of gas that was also the most wonderful place to run out of gas. I had a couple of roads in mind, including the Old Vantage Highway. In fact, it was second in a long list of places to consider but as soon as we arrived, the beauty and practicality of Frenchman's Coulee (a dead-end road with a bathroom nearby) made it an obvious choice. We pressed on and looked at the next road on the list but it was hard to forget those gorgeous vistas and that nearby bathroom. There was also a visual ambiguity that made Frenchman's Coulee look like it could be anywhere. This bonus freed the story from being tied to any one region which we hope helps El Camino Solo to be more universal.
What do you want people to take away from this film after watching it?
Life is lonely but we're not alone. And we shouldn't have to pay people to be nice to us either. We need to keep kindness free so it's easy to give away.
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