Last time Oklahoma Gazette checked in with Casey Twenter and Jeff Robison, the two local filmmakers had a screenplay touted by actor William H. Macy on its way to production, with hopes of seeing the project through to the end.
Now, Twenter and Robison have the imminent Sundance Film Festival premiere of Rudderless on their minds.
“I just got off a juice cleanse to get svelte for the festival,” Twenter said.
From their primary script to the to the inciting email from actor/ director William H. Macy, Twenter and Robison’s journey to get the project off the ground is a thoroughly publicized narrative. With a screening at Sundance scheduled for Jan. 24, viewers will finally see what all the fuss has been about.
Twenter and Robison describe Rudderless as a musical-drama about a former successful advertising agent coping with the untimely death of his son. Sam, played by Billy Crudup (Big Fish), discovers his son’s savantlike musical talents after finding his demo tapes and forms a band.
“The catharsis the father experiences by learning his son’s music and playing in a band after discovering this mind-blowing talent is initially what we wanted to explore,” Twenter said. “It started with a character I had been thinking about for a long time. I’ve always wanted to do something with this guy who lives on a boat in Lake Hefner, which sounds pretty ludicrous. We developed the idea — putting this father in the middle of a downward spiral after losing a child, and then made that child his savant son. When he finds his son’s music, he figures out his son was basically the next John Lennon.”
Twenter and Robison found inspiration through their own lived experiences and late-night “what if?” musings.
“Neither one of us are really drawn toward very heavy subjects,” Robison said, “but we’re both fathers, and this tragic possibility of losing a child is just something you’re prone to thinking about.”
But it’s not all doom and gloom, according to the two producers.
“There are some genuinely funny parts in the movie,” Robison said.
“We wanted this film to combine both humor and drama,” Twenter added. “We wanted it to just feel real.”
Rudderless also packs some serious A-list credibility to its cast, with Macy acting and directing, along with Felicity Huffman (Macy’s real-life wife), Selena Gomez, Laurence Fishburne, the aforementioned Crudup and Anton Yelchin.
“It was surreal to be in contact with these big-name actors we talked about using,” Robison said. “We both pushed for Selena Gomez as soon as her name came up.”
“I’ve seen every movie she’s been in,” Twenter added. “So I was really interested in seeing what she would bring to Rudderless."
The film features actors outside their elements, performing and singing like old-hat musicians. Robison and Twenter note the actors’ collective commitment to the authenticity of the musically rooted story line.
“I’m not sure that the actors’ playing is what actually ends up on the screen, but they learned all the songs and sang them all too,” Twenter said. “There’s no lip-syncing, although we did record some of the instrumentation before. It’s a great-sounding movie.”
With Sundance currently underway and more scripts in the works, the filmmakers are still firmly planted in the Sooner State.
“We don’t have plans to move to LA or anything like that,” Twenter said. “We want to shoot movies in Oklahoma. There are so many great aspects to making movies here.”
With their experience working with both locals and big names, Robison and Twenter hope to generate a bigger incentive for support for local film projects.
“There’s this impression that Oklahoma couldn’t possibly have good crew workers for film because we’re from Oklahoma, whatever that means,” Robison said. “You just have to prove yourself, and the rest will come together.”