Writer and director Will Slocombe worked on his movie Pasadena all his life.
He actually lists on his Facebook page that he has worked on the film since 1984, and it's set to world premiere at the Sarasota Film Festival. Well, that's because it kind of is about his life in a weird, twisted way.
"It's very, very, very autobiographic," Slocombe tells Patch in a phone interview. Pasadena is one of Sarasota Film Fest's Spotlight films, and will be screened at 3:30 p.m., Saturday, April 13 at Regal Cinemas Hollywood 20. Only stand-by tickets are available, so show up early to the theater.
It stars acclaimed director and actor Peter Bogdanovich as his father, Cheryl Hines plays the always plotting second wife and Alicia Witt is the half-sister nobody has seen in 15 years.
The Turner family in Pasadena has a lot of baggage that needs to be dealt with, so might as well take it up during Thanksgiving. Poppy, which is Bogdanovich, self medicates where "he's already a little out of it, chugging white wine through the movie. He's off in his own world," Slocombe says. Everyone fights over Poppy's money, but he has own bad news to break, too.
Hines, who plays Deborah, keeps up the fake smile and clinched teeth while all the issues bubble below the surface, trying to put on a great dinner, Slocombe says. You know, the kind of almost Desperate Housewives mom who just wants the dinner to go well and ignore all the family dirt, but count on the black sheep of the family to kick it up.
"There's a lot of politeness and surface tension, and basically what this crazy sister does is swoop in a puncture the bubble for everything," he says.
Might as well break bread while breaking up the family right? So, the film is anchored on three meals, Slocombe says—a lunch where the sister comes back, another lunch where the sister announces her intentions and the Thanksgiving dinner where the family blows up like a Macy's Day Parade balloon.
"When you get together at the family, you don't really talk about your problems, you talk about what you want to eat, and picking your food serves as a metaphor for all your real battles," Slocombe shares about the meal scenes.
Slocombe grew up in Washington, D.C., where his father was a foreign policy expert at the Pentagon where politics and world affairs were the topic du jour over dinner. (The movie was supposed to be based in something similar to Fairfax, Va., but it was much easier to access actors and crew in Los Angeles, so Pasadena, Calif., became the setting.)
In the movie, Bogdanovich isn't too far from his father in the respect that he's a foreign affairs expert and professor at Stanford University, and as the Iraq war rages, seems to be a perfect time for the half-sister to swoop in and poke and prod about the war.
But the dramedy couldn't be too autobiographical, actually. Attended law school? Sure, he said. $300,000 in debt? Hell no.
"The first draft was a total 'Dear Diary,'" Slocombe explains, and as the script evolved, the distance from reality grew, but allowed the film to open up and explore different avenues for the characters.
It allowed him to build in more comical moments, so don't expect Pasadena to be a heavy movie on a family falling apart at the seams. You can laugh.
"I think it's hilarious; I think it's a comedy," Slocombe says, offering that not everyone might see it that way initially but it's the under-the-surface tension and passive aggressive humor that helps break that tension for the audience, thanks to Hines' performance.
The score composed by William C. White, helps tell the story, too with the music setting the scenes, Slocombe adds, but there's also a song that didn't even make it into the first cut of the movie.
Slocombe had a DVD screener of the movie ready to show to some cast members at Witt's house, who plays Nina in the film.
"She says, 'My friend Ben is going to be there,' and I walk in, and it's Ben Folds," Slocombe said.
Folds watched the movie, and seeing how he and Witt have collaborated on music before, they decided to come up with a song for the movie to play at the end credits, he says.
Folds digs the setting of the mid-Century house inspired by architect Richard Neutra, he adds, leading to the sound of the song.
"Ben came up with a Burt Bacharach-esque song, and had this really cool Beach Boys shuffle to it, and now it plays over the end of the credits," he says, and so Witt and Folds wrote and perform the song that you'll hear in the movie.
They're working on shooting a music video for the song, too, he says.
World really are colliding in both the movie, the music and Slocombe's life at this point, and it's also going to come to a head in Sarasota.
Slocombe was motivated to write the script after watching the movie Tiny Furniture with his wife. The movie stars David Call, who will also be at Sarasota Film Festival to promote his films, Nor'easter, Dead Man's Burden and short film Mobile Homes.
Slocombe was excited to hear that Call will be at the festival, and hopes his schedule aligns to meet up and thank him.
"I'm such a fan of his," he says. "One of my favorite roles of the last 10 years is that chef," Slocombe says, about Call's character Keith, in the movie.
From here, Slocombe is trying to win over fans for his own movie beyond the world premiere, trying to secure distribution and is optimistic the film will have a wider release.
"We don't have a distributor yet, and I think things are lining up nicely," he says.