Carmel’s Coming Out
Carmel-by-the-Sea the movie finally makes its local debut at Sunset.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Local film director Lawrence Roeck is in the enviable position of being a go-to guy for the Eastwoods.
Raised on the Peninsula from age 1, Roeck (pronounced “rock”) dreamed of making films as a teenager and, while still a teenager, did so, with five snowboarding films as the sport went mainstream. That lead to music videos for L.A. hip-hop collective Jurassic 5 and reggae-hip-hop-rock band Slightly Stoopid, before he was tapped by the Eastwoods to make videos for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and a TV pilot for Dina’s South African a cappella singing troupe Overtone.
“I was flying to L.A. from Monterey on the Warner jet with Clint and Dina,” Roeck recalls. “Clint said to Dina, ‘Is he ready for this thing?’ Dina told me, ‘We’re going to hire you for this thing.’”
That “thing” was a Warner Brothers 35-year retrospective on Clint, to coincide with the release of a massive box set of his oeuvre, to air on HBO and Turner Movie Classics.
But when it came to his first feature film, Roeck struck out on his own. In the beginning.
“I was always fascinated by the idea of someone coming to Carmel to remind them of their artistic roots,” Roeck says. “To this day, [in Paris] they teach a class on Central Coast bohemian culture. Carmel has to decide if it’s a tourist town or… an art haven.”
How he would tell that story took shape when he met screenwriter Carlos de los Rios at Cypress Inn one night. Rios is also a Peninsula native.
“I was born in CHOMP in ’71,” says Rios, “P.G. High, class of ’89, baby.”
Rios went to USC Film School, where John Singleton was his senior advisor – “‘Put the black guy with the Mexican,’” Rios says, “he’s really a genius” – but admits he did one decent movie and a slew of “crappy” sci-fi films before his “first love” for film was sucked dry.
He returned to the Peninsula deflated. Then he met Roeck, who told him about a story he wanted to film, about a 15-year-old boy abandoned by his drug-addicted mother, who wanders the streets of Carmel until he meets an art forgerer, an ex-forgerer, and a child protective services woman, all while searching for his lost mom and finding a hidden painterly talent. That film was Carmel-by-the-Sea (originally titled Carmel before finding out another similarly titled Israeli/French/Italian film had beat them to the punch).
What started out as an indie film collaboration between the two men swelled into a minor production. It was shot over a slim 21-day shooting schedule in Carmel (and one location in Seaside), starring veteran actor Alfred Molina (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Boogie Nights), the legendary Lauren Bacall (To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep), Hollywood It-Kid Josh Hutcherson (American Splendor, The Kids Are All Right), vivacious actress Hayden Panetierre (NBC’s Heroes, Remember the Titans) and Dina Eastwood.
Hutcherson’s troubled teen character navigates not just the rarified world of the Carmel art scene, but also the inner workings of mature relationships – Roeck compares the encounter between the teen and Bacall’s character to cult film Harold and Maude. In one screen shot, the young Hutcherson and Panettiere walk along Carmel Beach, he in an immaculately assembled “angst” black and gray (Black Flag T-shirt/Kurt Cobain cardigan and all) and she in a bright, light Abercrombie outfit. He looks like an eclipse to her sun.
In a delightful scene, Bacall says to Molina, “I had no idea you had become so philanthropic.”
“Well I do my best to help kids – ”
She slams the door on his face; Molina sheepishy turns away muttering.
The 93-minute, Super 35mm, PG-13 film will be locally screened at Sunset Center on Saturday, March 19 – the location of a key scene.
Turbulence accompanied the movie throughout its life cycle; fittingly, then, Rios says, “I like to walk into a circus that a movie set is.” A couple of lawsuits, from two of the approximately 35 investors, over “mismanagement” of their money, stalled the post-production for nearly two years (the two suits were mediated out of court, according to Roeck); and it wasn’t until December 2009, a year after the shooting had wrapped, that producer Michael-Ryan Fletchall stepped in and injected the cash needed to complete, market and find distribution for it. The script, meanwhile, evolved in “layers” that meant more shoots and more re-cutting.
But Roeck and Rios still glow with the experience of working with the cast and crew.
“Here we are, five years later, the best movie I’ve ever made, with the best people I’ve ever worked with,” Rios says. “Our cinematographer, Walt Lloyd, shot Sex, Lies and Videotape [with Stephen Soderburgh] and Short Cuts with Robert Altman.”
Roeck savors the chance to work with the high-caliber actors in his home territory, ticking off highlights with enthusiasm.
“It was a tribute to [Bacall’s] integrity to hear her speak about Humphrey Bogart in such a loving and enduring way,” he says, “so many years after he had passed.
“[Molina] was amazing. One of the most talented, intense, well-prepared actors in my short career as a director.
“Dina and Josh do a scene at the end at ‘Wedding Rock’… Dina nailed it.”
The film had an L.A. screening at the famed ArcLight theater on March 9, which Roeck attended, and reports he is “very happy” with the results. Producer Fletchall offers his own P.O.V.
“[The] L.A. screening [was]for cast, crew and distributors,” he says. “Our strategy is we intend to sell the film. If we can work it out, we want to keep festival rights.
“At the end of the process,” he continues, “[I did] a watch-down to take notes. I kept getting drawn into the movie and forgot to take notes. And I see that as a good sign.”
CARMEL-BY-THE-SEA screens locally Saturday, March 19, at Sunset Center, San Carlos and Ninth, Carmel, with a 5pm wine reception, 6pm silent auction, and 7pm screening. $10/CSUMB student; $25/general admission; $100/VIP seating and reception (proceeds benefit the Monterey Bay Film Society of CSUMB). www.carmel-movie.com.