“I’ve always felt that the flyover states have been flown over for too long,” said Jonathan Rossetti, an actor/director who was referring some of his favorite bands in the Midwest, but might as well have been talking about his directorial debut.
“Home, James,” a feature currently raising funds on Kickstarter, was actually born in Los Angeles, but can be traced back to a juke joint in Stillwater, Oklahoma. This fact actually came as a bit of a surprise to the Tulsa native Rossetti, who only learned his classmate Julie Gearheard hailed from nearby Sapulpa when she wore an Eskimo Joe’s T-shirt one day to the Atlantic Theater Company Acting School. That got the two to talking, but though they would eventually form the production company Acorn Pictures with a group of their other Atlantic Theater classmates, they didn’t actually think of collaborating together until others noticed their paths intersecting once more during a pitch meeting.
As Gearheard explains, “Jonathan had heard of this company that drove people home from bars using their own car, [and returning on] a collapsible moped. Meanwhile, I had an idea about a young woman who was really struggling with making the step from college into real life. Our fellow company members were like, ‘What if you put these two stories together and he met this girl and went on a drive and fell in love with her.”
Of course, from there, things get significantly more complicated for the characters when James, the professional designated driver’s plans to assert control over his life as a photographer take a left turn when he meets a hard-partying socialite named Cooper. But behind the scenes, the fusion to the two storylines made it considerably easier for Rossetti and Gearheard, who have spent the last three-and-a-half years fine-tuning the story in between working on a few other shorts, commercials and acting gigs.
Naturally, “Home, James” is now set in Tulsa, although Rossetti and Gearheard say they briefly flirted with filming in Los Angeles, and no doubt they and the other L.A.-based members of their primary crew such as cinematographer George Su and producer Colin Moran are bringing a fresh eye towards the region as much as the cinematically-neglected Tulsa will serve as a fresh big screen landscape. Already, one can see that decision paying dividends in the trailer the filmmakers produced for their Kickstarter campaign, which has a genuine warmth about it and a fizzy score from the Lawrence, Kansas-bred band Fourth of July.
“Home, James” plans to take full advantage of the largely untapped creative well in Tulsa when filming is expected to start in September, hiring as many people from the community as possible for the production and the hope to employ bands such as Aqueduct to contribute to the soundtrack. While Rossetti is simply excited about the homecoming in terms of filming at all of his old haunts, Gearheard is equally enthused about the local hospitality, which as she recalled from the recent three-day shoot for the trailer can sometimes take an unusual form.
“A friend of mine and I were in our crew van pulled over to the side of the road looking up directions to the nearest Wal-Mart and all of a sudden this guy comes up next to the car without his shirt on,” said Gearheard. “We’re both thinking, what’s this crazy guy want? Is he panhandling? Is he going to say something mean? So I rolled down the window to see what he wanted and he says, ‘Do you need directions?’
“But that’s what people are like here,” Gearheard continued. “Everyone waves at each other when you drive down the street. People don’t really want anything from you here. They’re just trying to help.”
Now, with a little help from Kickstarter before a deadline of March 2nd, “Home, James” will hopefully find its own way home, likely hitting the festival circuit in the spring of next year.