This is a passion project of mine. I hope it affects others as it has me. Rest Stop aims to subvert hero and damsel archetypes. When Evie, pretending to be in trouble, asks for Al's help, he thinks he can be a hero. Their interactions disprove their preconceptions and the audience's preconceptions.
Inclusion StatementEvie is a con-woman who uses perceived victimhood for personal gain. She's gaining power through manipulation of feminine archetypes that others apply to her. That's a strong trait that bolsters the story as a whole. Casting is open to all interested actors and actresses, completely non-biased.
About The Project
Rest Stop is an unlikely story about an unlikely hero. Al is the sole clerk operating the late night shift at a rest stop. Underpaid and living with a constant sense of looming danger, Al aspires to be as strong and assertive as his hyper-masculinized childhood fantasy movie idol, the “Deathstalker”. In reality, Al is timid and prone to childish behavior. When Evie, a ragged and distraught young woman, shows up on Al’s doorstep begging for help and fleeing a mysterious pursuer, he faces a choice: call the the authorities or seize the moment to be a hero. He chooses the latter, and soon discovers that he and Evie have a lot in common. But Evie is not who she claims to be, and Al must learn that heroism does not always lead to fame, glory and romance.
I grew up watching 70s 80s and 90s action movies with my Dad. These included the classic Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Clint Eastwood and Harrison Ford movies. I still have a soft spot for them. As I grew older, I started to realize how silly and unrealistic those movies and their heroes truly are, and how overly testosterone-fueled the protagonists really were. I became more engaged with dramas, both modern and classic. For me, cinema has always had this magical power to thrust the viewer into a character's personal life. You're not just watching the characters, you are making memories with them. I love that, and don't think I will ever get tired of it. As a Film student at Wesleyan University, I have the opportunity to write, direct and bring to life a thesis film that puts all of the things I care about up onto the big screen. And I said to myself, can I make a modern hero movie that doesn't even feel like a hero movie half the time? How can I make a character drama that plays around with the archetypes of the hero's journey, without there being much of a physical journey? What if the main character, like me, idolized that muscular behemoth of a hero archetype, but unlike me he never took the time to re-examine what exactly that hero archetype was saying. Specifically, how those action films presented this image of masculinity that said only the biggest and baddest get all the women they desire, as prizes, and defeat the evil monsters that would stand in their way.
I would be lying if I said that Conan the Barbarian wasn't also a major influence for Al's hero fantasies. That movie blew my young teenaged mind. Al's obsession with The Deathstalker, a pumped up, cheap and more savagely hyper-masculine version of Conan, seemed the perfect way to match my interests with Al's. This was a hero that didn't act like a hero much; he took what he wanted and fought anyone who opposed him. But Al sees him as the hero, a braver, more confident, better-looking version of himself. I think people will find it easy to relate with and empathize with Al. He's a sweet guy. But that image he has in his head of what a real hero should look like causes him to make the mistake of trusting and protecting a total stranger. He thinks he's finally going to be able to step up to the plate and be a hero, but in real life, heroes often don't get what they want. So Al's journey is one of self-realization and growth, and Evie's journey parallels Al's. She goes in expecting Al to embody this hyper-masculine hero fantasy, but she learns that he's just like her in many ways, with hopes and dreams and troubles that prevent him from achieving those dreams. She winds up not actually wanting to rob Al, but having to do it out of necessity.
It's important to note that both characters in this film have their preconceptions shattered. Evie plots to manipulate and steal from Al, but she actually winds up having things in common with him. They share the same dreams of escapism, and that makes her true purpose in the rest stop all the more difficult for her to accomplish. Al thinks he's finally becoming the hero he always dreamed about being, and by extension he seems to really like Evie, his "damsel in distress," and perhaps even imagines a future with her. He thinks he has the power to protect her and defeat a villain that isn't actually there. But by the end of the film, Al realizes that being a hero isn't always beneficial to the hero. Evie was never the damsel, but she saw in Al a shade of true goodness, true heroism, and I feel like that's an important caveat to the whole, "Here to rob you this whole time" scenario. She doesn't like robbing Al, but she's in the same dire circumstances that he is, and at the end of the day she's going to look out for herself. And Al has to make peace with that.
My crew and I shot a short test shoot. Members of my crew filled in as the cast for the purposes of this shoot. We focused heavily on getting the lighting scheme right. I want to start out with a lot of that artificial light that gives convenience stores that timeless quality late at night, then transition into a more cereal and cerebral red and blue neon color scheme by the end of the film. As Al engages with a fantasy, so too does the film as a whole. It becomes abstracted.
This has been a truly wonderful and rewarding process so far and I cannot wait to keep going with it. I hope that I can inspire other people to pursue their passions and support others' passions in the process.
Very rough watercolor sketch of the poster design (courtesy of the wonderful Dayna Weissman):
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About This Team
All of my crew members are fellow students at Wesleyan University. We come from diverse backgrounds and grade levels, but we all share a strong passion for filmmaking. My Director of Photography, Jake Brodsky, has a brilliant visual eye and very strong work ethic. He's been instrumental in helping me stay on top of things, and for that I am extremely grateful. My producers, Ishan Modi and Nicholas McCarthy, are also invaluable. They are every bit as determined as I am to bring my vision to life. My lighting technicians, Forrest and Corey, have been excellent collaborators so far. They are efficient and quick to make the necessary adjustments. I couldn't ask for better gaffers/grips. Dayna Weissman has been working hard to create graphics to advertise this film, and in the long run she plans to make the final poster for the film, which I am extremely excited about. Mae Davies is one of my best friends and has a tremendous amount of experience working on costumes. Though this film isn't the most elaborate costume-wise, it is very important that the costuming leds itself to characterization, and I know that Mae will help elevate this film with the work she puts into the costumes. The rest of the crew is extremely multi-talented and hardworking and there is no end to the praises I could give to them. I feel honored to have the chance to work with all of them and I cannot wait until we get to shoot this film together.