Characters who want more out of life
Anne and Gary Lundgren’s feature film “Phoenix Oregon” recently premiered at the Ashland Independent Film Festival. It was the Lundgen’s fourth feature film, and it was filmed in rural Oregon. Their other films were “Black Road,” “Redwood Highway” and “Calvin Marshall.” We visited at their studio on East Main Street in Ashland.
EH: Are your films thematically linked?
GL: I think they all are. There’s definitely a main character that is unhappy, not being fulfilled by life.
AL: I think there is a lot of grace and love for all of these characters. They have passion and are wanting more.
GL: ... Wanting more out of life or wanting certain doors to open that are not opening. I think “Phoenix Oregon” is the same kind of story. A midlife crisis: two guys feel the clock ticking. They are not living the life they want, so they have to do whatever they can to change it, and take those risks.
EH: Do these characters find fulfillment in the end?
GL: Absolutely, in all four of our films. It’s a lot like life. It’s not as you planned it, but you somehow back into a better place.
AL: You’ve learned something and are a bit stronger. You take with you what you’ve learned and still have resilience to move on to whatever your next journey is going to be. In all of our movies it’s about hope, courage, love, friendship, community, and how we help each other to keep resilient, keep dreaming, and keep going. Or you come to terms with the fact that you’re getting the life you really want, but aren’t appreciating it.
EH: Why is rural Oregon so prominent in your films?
GL: I’m enamored with the Northwest as a region, with all its quirks. That’s been fun trying to capture, not just the locations, but a state of mind. Especially with “Phoenix Oregon,” it captures that depressed economy of a small town in the Northwest, and people spinning their wheels. There’s a sense that the American Dream has passed these guys by. That economic disparity is in the subtext of this film.
EH: How does film affect politics?
GL: It has a huge impact on how people see themselves and the world. I’ve never thought of myself as a political filmmaker. I just want to tell stories about people. I don’t like didactic movies. I speak about issues in an organic way. The politics are the subtext of our stories. We tell the story and let the meaning go with it.
AL: Films I’ve seen have changed me. I believe that art can change you. Filmmakers and artists can drive the culture.
EH: What is the magic of film?
AL: You’re combining all the different senses in film.
GL: You create this world from nothing. At one point it’s an idea. The process of bringing that to life and creating it, then to have other people moved by it: there’s nothing like it. It’s such a thrill.
AL: There’s that moment at the end of a movie, sitting in a dark theater, that moment where you know that you’re experiencing something meaningful. Either you grow from it, or it’s opening your mind up to something that you had no idea about. You’re going to take it away and think about it.
GL: You fall in love with the movies that mean something to you. And you hold to movies, you can rewatch them. Just from being a sheer cinephile, I can turn on a movie, and it makes me happy. If I can do a little bit of that, where I’m making a film that makes other people happy, that’s satisfying.
See Anne and Gary Lundgren’s website at jomafilms.com.
Evalyn Hansen is a writer and director based in Ashland. To read more interviews with fascinating people, visit her blog: ashlandtheater.net. Connect with her at email@example.com.