Southern Oregon served as the perfect location for the movie "Redwood Highway," according to Ashland filmmaker Gary Lundgren.
"It'd be tricky to know where to shoot a movie like this in California," Lundgren said about his introspective, coming-of-age film co-written with producer James Twyman. The film is playing at about 35 theaters nationwide, including The Varsity in Ashland starting today.
"Redwood Highway" centers on Marie, portrayed by 74-year-old Oscar nominee and Golden Globe winner Shirley Knight, who escapes from her Grants Pass retirement home to walk some 80 miles along the namesake highway to the Oregon Coast.
"It was just important that there were places of solitude and interesting people she could meet," Lundgren said.
For Twyman, the film's slower pace, relatable characters and the exploration of issues people face in retirement are the beginning of a movement for films geared toward a mature audience. He calls it "Ageless Cinema."
"I realized that there was an enormous segment of the population that was not being served by Hollywood, and that's people over 50," Twyman said. "Older people are looking for films with characters they can relate to, some sort of inspirational message, and just a good film."
Lundgren said the film will resonate with any audience seeking a story to which they can relate.
"We're getting a really good response from young people, too," Lundgren said. "I think it speaks for all the generations. I wouldn't want people to think it's just for people in their 70s."
Lundgren attributes the film's multigenerational appeal to the honest way the film's older and younger characters interact.
"Often the young people in the film are misunderstood, and there's a gap," Lundgren said.
The film was shot on location from Grants Pass to Brookings, and although Jackson County wasn't part of the setting, portions were shot in Ashland and Talent, as well.
"We actually shot the retirement community here in Ashland, which is Mountain Meadows," Lundgren said. "They were just fantastic at giving us access."
The film is a product of Southern Oregon in more ways than one, according to the filmmakers.
"Pretty much every smaller supporting actor came from Shakespeare," Twyman said. "There's a pretty deep well of talent in Ashland, as well as the beauty of just shooting there."
Although the film's first appearance was the 2013 Ashland Independent Film Festival, Twyman and Lundgren will be on hand at 6:30 and 9 p.m. tonight at the Varsity Theatre. Local cast members will attend screenings at 6:30 and 9 p.m. Monday, May 26, at the Varsity. The movie will also be shown at 6:30 and 9 p.m. Saturday, May 24, at SouthGate Cinemas in Grants Pass.
The filmmakers said they are looking forward to showing Southern Oregon's best sides to locals.
"One of the strongest affirmations we've received about the film from critics is the beauty of Southern Oregon. We're really thrilled to show Southern Oregon in its full glory," Twyman said.
Reach newsroom assistant Nick Morgan at firstname.lastname@example.org.