Filmmakers from Ashland, Oregon came to Seaside Cinema on June 18 to present their film “Phoenix, Oregon” to a receptive Seaside audience.
“I just enjoy seeing Oregon there in the background,” said audience member Dave Dillon, the director of the film program at the Hoffman Center for the Arts in Manzanita, during the Q&A after the film. “It’s not just shooting pictures. It’s telling a story.”
The Hoffman Center will be screening the film on Friday, on June 28, in Manzanita.
“Phoenix, Oregon” was made in the southwestern Oregon town near Ashland and Medford that provides its title — and has a great respect for local culture with its themes highlighting Oregon brewing and locally owned establishments throughout.
The group of filmmakers behind the film, which includes director Gary Lundgren and producer/wife Anne Lundgren, are currently touring the film to independent theaters all around the country. They’re doing this with the help of some rather conspicuous RVs with their film’s poster plastered on it and one of those stops was right here in Seaside.
Their first film went straight to video-on-demand. “We missed the screening experience,” Lundgren said, when asked about the tour.
He added that he wants people to give people a different experience than watching TV by showing it on the big screen.
Lundgren is very interested in providing an immersive viewing experience to as many people as possible and provide a sense of community in doing so. “Going to the cinema is a lost art,” he said.
The film concerns a lackadaisical bartender named Bobby, played by James Le Gros, who has a curious suspicion that aliens behind the scenes are dooming his life for failure. He is extremely unhappy with his job, lives in a trailer park in Phoenix, Oregon, and pours his anxieties into his comic book art.
To change his life up, his friend convinces him to partner up with him in a bowling alley/old-school pizzeria, which causes him to question his unhappiness and be hopeful for the future.
While the seeming lack of conflict could turn off some, it’s still a warm film with quirky, lovable characters and it tackles some very real issues that all of us deal with day to day. It also has a wealth of talent that fills out the cast which includes Lisa Edelstein (“House”), Diedrich Bader (“Office Space,” “Veep), and Kevin Corrigan (“The Departed,” “Pineapple Express”).
Personally, the film reminded me of Jon Favreau’s “Chef” from 2014. Not only because of its heartwarming nature, but because of it’s mouth-watering cooking scenes that will definitely have you craving some pizza.
Responding to the question of how he got his idea for the film, Lundgren said that he wanted to make a film about how it’s never too late to create your art. “Hitting your 40s, you feel like the clock is ticking more,” he says referring to his inspiration behind the film and the main character’s inner anxieties about his comic book art.
“We’re really proud of how it turned out,” Anne Lundgren added.
The team behind the movie is now in the middle of a 10-city tour in the Northwest that will expand to a much larger tour later this year in which they plan — along with their van — a cross-country tour to New York City. Producer and actor in the film Luis Rodriguez mentioned you can follow along with the tour as well as see newly scheduled limited engagement screenings at phoenixoregonmovie.com.