So what if the film was a bomb at the box office? It was a blast to make, cheaper than film school, and the spirit of Dill lives on.
After 10 years of moving around, making a couple of documentary films, saving a state park or two, cleaning out my father's house, and starting a new business, it's time to look back on the spring of 2007 when 120 or so of my friends and family gathered in Sonoma at the historic Sebastiani Theater to watch my first attempt at feature filmmaking. Everyone would agree the movie could have - should have - been much better, but hey you gotta start somewhere. After the dust had settled we made a feature film - on film - for under $10K and had a great time doing it. For one character I even bought a Trans Am - A 1977 Pontiac with the eagle on the hood - who cares if it didn't go in reverse and we almost got stuck in two feet deep of Sacramento River gravel? My friend Trey even wrote a Bon Jovi-esque song to accompany her entrance!
For me the best part was the process. Beginning with a botched business trip in the fall of 2005 that allowed me some 'what if' time, I determined to stop waiting for things to line up perfectly, and to write and direct a film of my own. Armed with a friends' recent breakup and imagining a storyline taking place all in one day in a small Northern California town, "Dill, California" was typed onto page one, and the journey began.
Ten months later we were rehearsing lines and planning a film, a couple of cars were purchased and yes even an Arriflex 16mm film camera. My crew was tight, my budget was tighter, but I think everyone had fun, I know I did even on day one of shooting. The Trans Am didn't have reverse, neither car had valid plates or registration, and permits? Please. I did learn however about song licensing, film processing, film festival submissions, and the importance of quality audio. Oh boy did I learn that last one the hard way.
But enough from me, what did some of the amazing cast members have to say?
"I turned twenty-one, ditched most of my friends, drove an illegal Firebird, and got one beer in a bar in a sh*t-town for my birthday, to shoot [dill, california]. What did you do for your twenty-first?" - Greg Horton
I probably listened to Joni Mitchell's 'California' a hundred times on the way to the shoot. It was a gorgeous day and I will always think of that town we filmed the scene in whenever I hear that song - for the rest of my life."
- Lauren Haile
"I remember digging a hole with Alden alongside a road somewhere in Northern California to plant a fake "Dill, Ca" city limits sign. The sun was either rising or it was setting, and the sky was perfect. You don't get many moments like that, they're worth remembering." - Chris Sell
Scott M. and the Arriflex, waiting for John Olmsted to get his props set up. Yuba Powerhouse, Smartsville, Ca
Chris Sell and Alden O., outside of Colusa after dawn, putting up the sign in rock hard soil that we forgot to get a close - up of. Learning to fly indeed.
The aforementioned Trans Am, on the streets of Colusa without a permit.
For better or worse wrapping the shoot was a triumph for sure.
A little local love.. Sonoma Index Tribune.
Want to know what it's like to shoot a feature film - on film - for less than $10,000? Watch the 'making of' short film and channel your inner Robert Rodriguez. Enjoy the trailer and the great music from bands like Chuck Prophet, Mike Gibbons, Shannon Ferry, CCR, Trey Xavier, and more. There's even a music video of the finale number, Our Dreams Will Come True, written by Chris Sell and performed by Lauren Haile. When you're ready, dive in to the full film below, online for the first time.
The cast and crew of Dill, California
Despite the reality of the film business I'm still proud of the accomplishment of finishing the film, very proud of the music, and very grateful to all who made it happen - you know who you are!
Alden Olmsted, April 21st, 2017
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