32 Hours, 7 Minutes: Q&A with Director Cory Welles
32 Hours, 7 Minutes is a documentary that takes its title from the US transcontinental speed record, set during the 1983 US Express (a secretive race from New York to LA). A successor to the famous Cannonball Run, drivers were essentially breaking the law nonstop, driving as fast as they could to get across the United States. The total distance, start to finish: 2,874 miles.
I first heard about the movie way back in 2004, back before YouTube even existed. Over eight years later, I got wind that the movie was finally complete… and was able to get a hold of a reviewer’s copy, soon after its release.
I so enjoyed the film, and was so taken with it… that I ended up corresponding with the film’s director, Cory Welles. In the documentary, Welles teamed up with drivers Alex Roy and Dave Maher to verify the record time in a rather unique way: by attempting the trip themselves. I was so interested in the process and the story that I wound up with a whole bunch of additional questions.
Cory was incredibly kind and generous with her time, agreeing to do a Q&A interview over the phone with me. I shared my questions with her ahead of time, but the text below accurately captures our conversation (minus some personal banter, in between questions).
Note 1: While the words and text are all Cory’s, I’ve made small adjustments in terms of spelling, grammar, and line breaks.
Note 2: If you haven’t seen the film yet, be warned that the Q&A contains some spoilers. FYI.
Yes, it was. It was actually specifically on the time, the record time 32 hours, 7 minutes. And the history of the races, and… especially the US Express, because that was so unknown.
You couldn’t type it in a search box on the Internet and get anything, at that point, about that race. And since I knew I was one of only a couple, probably, hundred people that knew anything about that race… it really interested me to get the story told. I thought it was such a great feat.
We had a cut of the film in 2005 that was all about the history of races. It was nothing but the history and the story of the 32 hours, 7 minutes record. I hadn’t met Alex yet, but he found me through my trailer and he came aboard as a producer. And I believe it was a year later that we decided to go.
So the thing with Alex is that when I met him, he was doing all of his rallies – the Gumball and the Bullrun. And we’d always talk about someday doing this, almost jokingly though: “Oh my gosh, this would be so great… ” and “Someone should put this together again.”
I would say to Alex: “You know everything there is to know about racing on public roads (and not getting caught). And I know everything there is to know about old races and the history of this.” And we would literally, anytime we’d get together, that’s something we would joke about and talk about. I don’t think either of us had some date in mind, really, some hard date that “OK, we’re going to do this.”
But in 2005, when I had a cut of the film I’d sent a version to New York for Alex to see. And we were screening it here for LA. And he had sent some notes back to me, from that screening he’d had at his place.
He had a bunch of guys come over, friends of his, journalists, car guys. And they watched the film and they submitted notes back to me, and somewhere in the notes there was this idea of answering the question. Because at that point in the film I didn’t answer, really, the question of… is 32:07 real or not?
Other than my trust in that it was real, I didn’t have anything to go on, other than… I think I had a toll receipt in Oklahoma. I had a ticket, a speeding ticket in Ohio. I could only get them so far across the country.
Being a documentarian you want to look at all the facts. You want to look at all the information you bring in, and you want to present that without any bias to your audience. But… I also knew this person. This was something I had heard about when I was ten years old, and it changed my outlook on life. Because of knowing about it so young. You know – wow, there’s this thing that’s out there and life isn’t just “staying between the lines.”
My parents were happy about the fact that there was this record set. I remember talking about it: when they found out, being at a dinner party or something, when we learned that Doug had set this record.
And so I had this cut and I couldn’t answer the question. And audiences I could tell, from the screenings, they wanted more information. They wanted a hard yes or no. That, coupled with the fact that I didn’t have any really, really fast footage of these races. Those two things to me were sort of the push over the edge.
And I actually called up Alex and I just said “Hey, you know how we’d always joked about this? I think we need to go. And if you’re really serious, then…” Because, sometimes we weren’t serious. But I wasn’t inside his head, and he wasn’t inside mine. But I said “If you’re game, I think we need to go and we need to go now for the film.”
And he said, I believe he said “I’ve been waiting six months for you to ask me that question.”
He had wanted to go, he had this in his mind too, but… he didn’t want to push himself on me. Which, I just had huge respect for him already but even more respect for him after that. Because he was an investor, he could’ve tried to muscle me into it. But he waited for me to have the idea and come to him, and at that point that was it. The plan – it was on. I think Alex probably started typing up his strategy at that point, while we were on the phone.
Sure. I think there was officially six cameras in the car itself.
There was a front bumper, a back bumper, one going through the driver’s head coming down from the ceiling of the car – through the driver’s head, out the front windshield. There was one on the drivers. The ones in the car that were pointed at the driver and out through the front windshield were these Sony (at the time I called them Sony Lipstick cams). I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head the model.
But the ones on the outside of the car were chase cams, and Alex ended up having those mounted in the bumper – the front/back bumper. And then there was another camera in the corner of the dash pointing at the drivers, that was an infrared camera, so that I could [get] an image of them at night. Because we were not running any lights in the car, for this run.
And then I had a handheld camera. And there were four recording devices in the car: I chose what cameras would be on, at different times. So those were the cameras in the car.
There were three chase drivers, chase car drivers that had cameramen in them. One that left in New Jersey and followed us through New Jersey for a bit. There was one at the finish in Los Angeles that we picked up at the 710/10W Interchange.
And then there was one in St. Louis, but the St. Louis chase car we outran before it ever got on the highway [laughs]. That was such a bummer!
There’s actually footage in the car, because I’m recording all the time, of me talking to Alex saying “Dude, we’re going to outrun this car” and “we need this chase footage” and “it’s the only chase car footage in the day!” And he’s like “Cory, what do you want me to do?” Maher’s driving. We’re not going to slow down. And I’m like “But… but…” [laughs] It was horrible.
Maher had been, both of them had been making such good time during the night that our pre-arranged rendezvous did not fly. When we called the driver, he was like “Wait, where are you?” And when we told him, he said “By the time I got on the freeway, you’re past. So… sorry.” [laughs]
That’s really funny. It’s like… well, you’re missing the footage, but you’re making great time!
Right, exactly! When you know at certain points maybe seconds and minutes will count… you don’t know what you’re going to get into later, you can’t slow down. But at that moment, I was like “Really? Are you sure? Can’t Maher drive even faster, later?”
I think staying fit and active in life, in general, was what really helped me be able to do that run. At that point (and still), I do a lot of spinning on a bicycle. I did a lot of yoga. Those two things were extremely important, just to deal with… your adrenaline is going on this run, you need to stay alert.
I’m cramped in the backseat with all this equipment and stuff everywhere. So I’m sure the yoga really helped with that. Just staying calm as well, when things go wrong. There’s a lot of mental stuff – you have to be ready for anything, and you have to be able to deal with it in that car. So I think, again, being physically fit really helped.
I also at that time was very much into practicing jiu jitsu. That’s a really amazing martial art, and that definitely helped with staying calm in times of crisis and stress. So I think that’s pretty much it. And probably not being a cigarette smoker was a good thing.
As the sole person tasked with recording all the “evidence” of the journey, did you have a similar regimen you had to maintain?
Oh definitely, definitely.
As I’m sure anyone knows who’s had to keep track of DV tapes or any kind of media, when you’re producing a lot of it, you need to be very organized: when do the tapes go in, when they come out, where they go, how they’re labeled.
So the system was a very specific labeling system so I’d know what camera they were in, or what deck they were in. Each deck had to be changed every hour, and so I’d start the routine of changing the tapes a minute or two before… I had an alarm set, so I’d know exactly when it’d be time to change things.
And then everything in the car. Around me, I had those car organizers that you put on the back of the driver’s and passenger’s side seats. Each pocket was filled with pens, and tapes, and batteries, and lights, and cables, and cords and… I mean, you name it and it was in that car. Wet wipes! And ziplock bags!
I’d have a really big ziplock bag of tapes that were not yet shot. And then I’d have a really big bag of tapes that were shot. And keeping things just separate, so that when we were ready to get out of the car and it was all done – it would all make sense.
But of course, every once in a while, something would go wrong. I think there was maybe once where a deck didn’t start recording, or something was mis-labeled. In addition to all the actual media, I had to keep tabs on the battery levels.
Both the drivers wore Lavalier mics, and so they had their mic pack, there was a receiving pack that took the signal, there was a sound mixer. All this is either on batteries or we’ve got it plugged in to wiring system that Alex had – his car was like fully wired where there’s outlets in the back.
I had these big battery blocks with me. And there was a ton of additional equipment and food and whatnot in the trunk. And so at gas stops, I had to not only film the guys, but figure out very quickly what had to go back in the car, and what had to get out of the car and into the trunk. It was nonstop to deal with all of this stuff that was in the back seat.
I remember originally we had planned on maybe bringing a journalist with us. We had talked about bringing Charles Graeber (the one who did the Wired article). [He didn’t end up going with them] Not just because he’s 6’4″, but because there was no way anyone else could fit in the backseat of that car.
The gas stops were really kind of like this fire drill for me, because of everything that had to be done. To film, and then be the field producer: Ok, what batteries are dead? What tapes do I need? What tapes don’t I need? I have to make sure the guys have food…
It was a lot to handle. But it was fun at the same time.
That makes me tired just listening to that whole list. It sounds like you were as busy as they were. That’s a lot of stuff I never thought about – things like the mics they had, that needed their own batteries. The idea of keeping stuff running for 24 hours on batteries has just… it’s just got to be a huge juggling act.
It was! There’s evidence of one my failures in the movie: at the very end, after our very last gas stop. We’re getting back on the road again and Maher tells Alex: “Man, you’ve got to step on it.” And Alex says back to him “Are you telling me if I don’t do 120 mph we’re not gonna break it?”
And he’s subtitled! Alex is subtitled when he says that. And the reason was: as soon as we got back in the car and were driving, his mic failed. His battery died. And I had NO MORE batteries in the car with me – they were in the trunk. I thought I had the right batteries. I must have not swapped them out, or somehow… at that point we’re, what, 27 hours in the car?
Yeah, I hated that. Every single time I would see that footage, for the longest time I would remind myself: Aargh! Small failure!
But, as you know… there’s no stopping the car and getting a battery out of the trunk.
Most of the time, we were all in a constant state of vigilance. If I wasn’t really focused in the moment of getting a shot, or dealing with a tape, or changing a battery or something like that… we were ALL looking for the police. Constantly.
And I was able to save him a couple times, by saying “Cop! Cop cop cop cop!” Of course, looking back – why did I do that? I should have… as a documentarian, you’re not supposed to cross over that line, I think. Of it being part of your own mission. But of course for me, it was a personal thing. So I did want them to make it. But it might have been more exciting had I not [laughs] called out “Cop” for those times.
There was some downtime. There would be moments where we’d all be kind of joking around, or we’d all decide to eat something. The scenery at times was just beautiful.
I remember the feeling, the sense that we just really weren’t connected to anyone else’s reality. We were flying across the country, at a rate faster than anyone else was going for a constant time. So in a way, my view looking back now on it: I still can get back to that same feeling. I felt almost like we were hovering over the Earth, while we were driving. Whether it was a couple feet or a couple inches, it… there was a complete disconnect.
And I think for me that is part of the reason why this event is so appealing, because you can leave everything else behind. At any time, when someone’s involved in such a risky… everything is in the moment, nothing else exists! You’re not thinking about bills you have to pay, you’re not thinking about “Oh, I have to move at the end of the month.” Nothing else matters. You are 100% in a different reality.
That to me, I don’t think it was tranquil. But it was definitely a different state of reality. Which was amazing.
I do remember sort of staring out the window sometimes – especially when they were going super fast. And just being amazed that this was reality for us.
It’s funny, a lot of people ask me “Oh, weren’t you scared?” And yeah, I was scared but I wasn’t scared about the speed. I was scared about my role in the car. And my role in the car was to record this event, in a way that would later tell it in… not in a good light, but in a correct light. In a cinematic light.
Sitting in the backseat of a car running that many cameras is not a normal thing for me. Every time we got in the car, that was a learning curve for me. And so I really was nervous about the cameras failing, losing audio. Anything that was gonna to go wrong, was gonna go wrong at 150 miles per hour. And that’s where I had to solve it.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been scuba diving? But in scuba diving lessons, they tell you: anything that goes wrong under the water… you need to fix under the water. You can’t just shoot to the top of the surface if you’re 50 below.
And so for me, I knew that once I was in that car, once we were off, no one was going to stop for me. I mean, no one was going to stop for anyone else – it’s not like Alex was going to pull over for Maher or vice versa. But I really had absolutely no control over where that car was going, how fast it was going, and when it was going to stop.
So for me, the main thing was: my job. And I could have hired a cinematographer. Actually, I had met through Alex a very well-known and talented filmmaker/cinematographer named Kevin Ward. He was the guy who shot the movie Dust to Glory. He coordinated all the helicopters, I mean that movie is shot beautifully.
He’s professional, to say the least. But there was no way I was going to let Kevin Ward in that car! That was my seat – I was going!
I’m sure some of the shots in the car could have been a hell of a lot better, and things might have been filmed better. But I had to see what it was like in that car. I couldn’t go backwards in time, to relive that moment when they got in the car and they did it back in the day. But getting in the car today felt, in a way, like that’s what would happen. We were allowing ourselves to kind of reverse time, and understand what it was like when they did it. And as a storyteller, I just knew I had to be in that car. And I wasn’t going to miss that ride.
I got the seat. And with it, the responsibility of not screwing up.
Yes. I absolutely was surprised at that. And the person, I think, who probably was not surprised was Alex. And Alex really opened my eyes in terms of strategic planning, the way NASA would do it, or the military would do any covert operation. He did not overlook anything.
In fact, he goes way beyond what most people would do. And he investigates, researches, and prepares for everything! I mean, I accused him of sometimes of being overly prepared.
There’s a scene that we had for a while, a little moment where Alex had asked Maher… we were about to leave, like soon, out of his apartment to go to the parking garage. And he says “You know, should we check the weather one more time?” And Maher says “You know Alex, you can plan a perfect picnic but you can’t control the weather.”
And Alex’s response was: “Yeah, but you could plan to bring an umbrella! Now that would be a good idea, wouldn’t it?” [Laughs]
I just thought that was the funniest thing. THAT’S Alex. And we all learned so much about preparation, and planning, and… I wish to God I had had more time to plan. I wanted to do more runs in the car. We’d run out to New Jersey just to test some camera systems or whatnot, but we didn’t have that much access. We were a Los Angeles crew, and Alex and the car – they were in New York.
And then being able to work around Alex’s schedule, to get the car and get him… because no one else was going to drive that car around New York City or even out to Jersey. So I wish we had more planning, but I’m so grateful for the planning that Alex did – the preparation. He really was the leader of it in that way, and he set the tone for how professional it was going to be. And that made me feel even more comfortable, with being in the car with those guys.
Oh yeah, yeah. He’s very successful at that and well-known. You know, it wasn’t tricky at all. He’s one of the coolest guys, ever.
Everyone I interviewed was so nice. I had a producer working for me at that point, Dan Ewen was his name. And I believe it was Dan who just went on the Internet, looked up where his offices were up in Northern California. And like most of the drivers, once they heard that someone knew they had done this, and we were doing the doc on it… they picked up the phone immediately.
Will Wright didn’t even hesitate. He invited us up, he scheduled the interview, he gave us a ton of their time. He even hooked me up with a lady in his company, and she gave us all of the material on The Sims. I think we got every game and book that was written about it. We had hoped, at the time, to maybe incorporate some geographical approach that mirrored some of the Sims, but it never really meshed with the film.
He was so forthcoming and welcoming. I think he was really excited (as most drivers were) to re-live and talk about those times. It was great!
I gotta say, it was surprising to see. I was like, really? He won one of those? Will Wright? I was really surprised to see that – that was such a cool thing to see.
His interview was so great. We have a bit of him in the one section where he talks about how people can use machines, and that interface between a machine and a human being. He always took every question we asked him to a completely different level than anyone else. He’s brilliant.
Good question. I think they did know, I think most everyone did know the relationship between myself and Doug. So if I hadn’t disclosed that before speaking to them, they definitely knew it by the time I got to their house, or their office, or wherever we were meeting. I’m pretty sure they all knew the relationship, because we would have told them, called them up explaining the project and how I knew about it. Because they’d always want to know: How the heck did you find me?
You know, it was… [pauses]. It was a little difficult to hear things. There’s one really good example of someone that I interviewed, trying to be very nice about it. In the movie, there’s a moment when David Morse, the second place team, says to me – he tells me to turn my camera off. He’s like “Turn it off, turn your machine off.”
And everyone always wants to know: “What did he say after that?” And the reason he told me to turn the camera off was that he didn’t want to say something disparaging about Doug on camera. He just felt like: “Look, I want to say this to you first. And then if you want me to talk about it, I will.”
He actually had me turn the camera off, just so he could feel like he was talking to me one-on-one, first. And I thought – that was actually really nice of him to do.
I knew Doug. And I never for a second believed that he cheated. I wanted evidence though, I wanted the hard facts. I wanted to know for sure, for everyone else’s sake. That’s part of the reason we had to go do that – I wasn’t comfortable leaving it as a question.
Especially because here I was, making a movie about something that I felt very honored to have known about. And that I was trusted at 10 years old to know about it. I wanted to celebrate it, and I wanted to share it with the car guys – other people, not even just car guys. Because I also thought it was also a very inspiring story.
And here I go to do it, and one of the main things I do is dig up dirt. I’m the one that went in and started asking questions and poking around. And there was a time where family members of mine (two very close, immediate family members of mine) pulled me aside at different times, and said: “Don’t put anything about the cheat in the film. You can’t do that, you can’t put that out there.”
They were very concerned – “Don’t do that.” They don’t feel that way now, of course. But I knew as a documentarian, I had to present that side of it. It wasn’t just one person, it was more than one person, it was more than just the second place team.
I think that’s part of the job description. It’s like a lawyer in court, right? You can’t hide evidence. That wouldn’t be fair to anyone. It was a tough time around the months and months, before we decided to go on the run. When I didn’t have an answer to the end of the story. I didn’t have an answer to all those negative and questioning comments that had come up.
It was never easy to hear things like that, about someone you know and care about very deeply. But you have to give people the opportunity to say what they really think. And luckily for me, all those guys were really comfortable speaking to me when I did the interviews.
The fan base that I have is… guys between the ages of 15 and 70. Car guys. And they are very dedicated, loyal, and demanding [laughs] bunch.
The trailer going online so early was actually because my attorney was going off to France (for the Cannes Film Festival, I believe). And he said “Look, I’ll shop the film around for you.” It was still in the beginning stages of a film.
And so he said: “You need to do this. You need to have a website up, you need to have a trailer.” He gave me the laundry list of things I had to do. And that’s why that went up. I really wasn’t thinking that it was going up to spread around. Anytime anyone puts anything online now, what do you want? You want everyone to see it. The atmosphere wasn’t exactly the same, then.
Over the years I’ve always felt bad for my fanbase, because I didn’t update them a lot. I barely sent an update during the years that this film’s been in production. The main reason I didn’t was because I didn’t want to seem like I was stringing them along, and I didn’t have anything real to say.
And some people, when I did give updates, would get upset with me. And they’d write and say “You know what? Unless you have something real to tell us, like… when it’s going to be released? Just stay quiet.”
And other people would get upset that I wasn’t saying more, even if it wasn’t a release date. So it was difficult to know exactly what to do, and how often I should be interacting with them.
It was always nice for me, to get messages from people, and to hear their interest level. But I never wanted to go online and say “Oh hey guys, things are going great five years into the film. Not really sure how I’m gonna end it. Not really sure I know how to finish this film.”
I just felt like there was not much I could say. It wasn’t something I had experienced before – people all over the world, expecting the best car film in the last couple decades. That’s what they had expected. The idea of the film, the premise of the film I knew was good. And it was on my shoulders to make sure it didn’t suck.
That was difficult. But so many people would email me and say such great things. Like “Hey, man… do it right. Don’t give in. Don’t give us something half-assed just because people are pressuring you. Just keep going, and when it’s ready let us know.”
And I am happy the first people we were able to get it [the dvd] to was the fanbase. I was very concerned about them not seeing it first.
Did this version only go on sale to those people who had signed up for the project’s newsletter? When will the film be available for purchase by the general public?
The film originally did only go on sale to the people who signed up for the newsletter. I have a list of people who had signed up, and I think… the first person signed up in like 2004.
We consulted with a distribution consultant. We decided to release the film (the “limited” part of it was that it was limited to them). I sent out an email, letting them know: “It’s finally ready, and you’re getting first crack if you want it.” And so we put it on sale only through that email. You couldn’t find it online anywhere, we didn’t put it on the website.
It did get around, word-of-mouth, guys telling other guys. People started posting it here and there on, you know, BMW boards and whatnot, automotive sites online. And so people would email me and say “Hey, I hear there’s this movie available. Can I get it?” And if someone emailed and asked me, of course… I would let them buy it.
I mean, I want it to go to fans, and if this is someone who has heard about it or has stumbled across the site and caught wind of it somehow, then… you’re a fan. If you want to buy it, you’re a fan – you wouldn’t want to if you weren’t. The “limited” signified that it was only going to our list.
And then we looked at our numbers after we did that first run, and regrouped, and our consultant said “You know, you can go ahead and go public.” The reason we were holding back (one of the reasons we were holding back) is that – in the film industry, you can’t release your film if you have any plans of going to big festivals, or [laughs] getting an Oscar. You have to have theatrical runs and premiere at film festivals (every film festival wants your premiere). So that’s really why we had been holding back.
But you know, honestly, we weren’t getting a lot of love from the film industry. I shopped it around a good deal and people loved it. But the film industry kind of scratched their heads, and they didn’t know what to do with it.
I had actually made the decision to release the film after we’d done the North Carolina screening, in the summer. Because it seemed to me the most ridiculous business plan, to continue to pay film festivals to consider my film. Because if you apply to a film festival, you gotta pay them at least about a hundred bucks. So I was continuously sending it to film festivals, sending it to Sales Agents and not getting a lot of love back.
And yet I’d be emailed, almost every day. I’d see comments on Facebook and on other sites, from guys saying “Hey, I want to buy your movie right now.” [laughs] And we’re not selling it to them!
So at the end of the day, I thought: you know what? I’m happy with this film. I think it’s the best it’s ever been. I’m ready for people to see it. And those people want to buy it! So let’s go to our core fans. Let’s go!
We had screened it in North Carolina in a theater of like 185 people, and it was amazing! I was blown away at the response. And that’s when I knew it was ready. And so that’s why we did it.
Let me ask one quick follow-up. I don’t know if I missed it, and I apologize if I did. I know you talked about the limited run, for those on the newsletter originally.
Is the film currently available for purchase by the general public. Is it on the website, is there a URL they can go to?
Yeah, they can actually just go to our site now. They can go to our site, and there’s a link that’ll take them to our shopping cart. It’s available.
Knowing that this is a sensitive topic and one that’s currently being worked out in the courtrooms, is there anything you’d like to say, or are able to say, in response to Roy’s statement?
I think anytime you are involved, when people are involved in a meaningful endeavor. Especially this one, which is extremely risky and there’s a lot of heart in it. And everyone is experiencing it on their own, as well as being part of a team. Creative decisions and problems/issues, they’re going to arise. I think there’s no way around that.
Alex is amazing in the film. He brought so much to the project. I don’t regret anything between Alex and I. I mean, I love him to this day. He’s been one of my best friends, ever since we met. We always said that the planets just aligned perfectly so that we would meet. Because I can’t see how this film would have finished in the way it did, without his participation.
So in the end, we were swamped from all the fans. Everyone was dying to see it. It’s been overwhelmingly positive, so incredible. I didn’t expect such a response, myself.
In the end, I think everything’s going to work out.
You know, I remember the night before I released the film. And when I say “released,” I mean actually the night before I knew the first person was getting it in the mail… and they’d be watching it. I remember that night. And I remember how kind of nervous and anxious I felt, because I knew any day now everything was going to be online of what people thought.
And I remember thinking about Alex, and thinking about David, and everyone else who’s in that film and what that must be like – to have a film come out, that you are in, that you don’t have control over. Alex released a book, and that was his vision, and that was his personal experience of what happened. And 3207 the movie, is mine.
And mine being: I’m your storyteller. I’m the one that’s gonna take you through it. I’m your witness.
I’m sure it can’t be easy for anyone to have something come out about them, that they don’t know exactly what’s going to be in it. Alex didn’t know exactly what was going to be in the film. But that was also Alex’s choice, to not see it ahead of time. So I really didn’t have any control over that.
Every time I watch the film… and you can see the relationship we all had… I do not at all give up any hope. I still have immense hope, and belief that everything, in the end, will work out. Because of the film.
It’s like people who’ve divorced, but they have this great kid? He’s like the best kid ever? It’s kinda like 3207 is the kid. And so far, everyone loves the kid.
With most difficult situations, that usually ends up bringing people back together. Something that’s really celebratory.
So… I still think that will happen.
Do you see any similarities between your two passions? Or do you view gardening as a kind of escape or polar opposite from the work you do, in the editing room?
I do love gardening! Actually, over the years, once we had done the run and everything about the film was hinging on editorial, the whole editing process… gardening was one of the things that saved my sanity. There was a community garden that I garden at, and it was a mile or so from my house. And I’d go up there on this hill (and yes, we do garden in the winter here in California). Luckily our growing season is all four seasons.
It’s very meditative, in a garden. To me, the interesting thing is that it’s not something I actually do have to do a lot of planning for. Maybe I’d be a better gardener if I did do more planning [laughs] ahead of time, but it’s very therapeutic and meditative. And it’s something that comes very naturally to me, it’s just something I do.
I’ve always loved to do it. To me, it’s kind of like driving. Your hands are doing something, you have this goal in front of you – whether you’re weeding, you’re digging or you’re watering. And your mind is kind of processing, but you’re not sitting in front of a computer trying figure something out, or solve a problem.
To me, it’s separate. It’s the place that I go, and the thing that I do that I get a lot of enjoyment out of. Because once you plant something, it’s the plant that’s going to change and move and grow, and you just have to be there to tend to it, to care for it.
Not with a film. You have to have dedication, for sure. But with a film, with that film… nothing was going to change unless I changed it. Unless I continued to push forward.
There were so many times when I would get to an edit… and we did screenings, and I’d get all this feedback back – “This isn’t right” and “I don’t understand this” and “Why is this in there? Who’s this character? You didn’t pull me in.”
I would take all that information and have to keep going forward. Even though sometimes it felt like you were going backwards (which is a testament to how many editors we’ve had on this film) [laughs]. You have to keep working and working and working it. You can’t turn your back.
A garden – as long as it has sun and you remember to water? It’s gonna do what it’s gonna do, and I’m just always really thankful and amazed when plants come up.
I just started a whole batch of seedlings – they’ve already started to sprout and I’m moving them outside. And I still get super giddy when I see the new plants come up. I’m a total dork when it comes to gardening.
I wish filmmaking was as easy as gardening. I really do [laughs].
Has the advent of social media made things easier for filmmakers to find backers and fans? Or is it harder, given all the voices clamoring for attention (and funding)?
I think it’s made things easier. And the reason I think it’s made it easier is because you can find your fans. If you do the work (and it’s a different kind of work). But if you do the work, and you make a good product, and you put it online – I can reach a fan in Brazil! I can reach a fan in Japan! And he/she can buy something directly from me. And for a filmmaker, that is just amazing.
I mean, at this point right now, the film would not be out there if it wasn’t for people who saw it, and emailed me, and were interested. It wouldn’t have a release.
If you nurture your fan base, which like I said before – in the past, I didn’t know exactly how I was supposed to do that, or what I was supposed to do when I didn’t have film yet. But once you have it… now I’ve learned about how you do more, along the way. But once you do that, you don’t need all the old school ways of the film industry.
Which is a huge thing for filmmakers. Because in the past, the filmmaker really never, ever, made any money. So then on the front end, when you’re trying to get funded or interest… no one’s really going to help you out. If you’re not going to make money, how are they going to make money (unless they’re one of the big guys, or you’re somehow in the old school traditional way of releasing a film)?
I think it’s great. I think it’s the most amazing thing that I was able to make a film; and then, without a middle man, I can deliver it to someone across the world. I think there are a lot of voices out there, and as long as you identify your market and really understand your own film, it’s the best thing ever. It’s such a blessing.
Oh, good question! I do have some other films in the works. Of course, the one you mentioned: The Deliverance of Rabun County. We’re about to be in a rough cut stage with that film.
Another film which I started is also a bit of a long haul, this one. It’s on the family the Gracies – the jiu-jitsu family. They invented the Ultimate Fighting Championships. I started following them quite a few years ago as well. And this was another story that was evolving in front of me. That one is now in editorial stage, and I’m hoping to get that one wrapped up and edited this year.
But those two were the main, other big films in the works. And as for keeping up to date, I don’t think we have anything on the Gravid film website that would just give you a general sign-up for updates. Of course, the easiest way to keep up with things for 3207 is to sign-up for updates online, or hit “Like” on our Facebook page. And I do update the Facebook page much more often now, because of all the feedback we’re getting, and I like to post reviews and pictures people send. That would be the best way to keep up with that.
I guess if you come across me on Facebook, find me there! I’m not someone who just keeps Facebook as a very personal thing. The people that are on my Facebook page are fans of 3207, who read Alex’s book and reached out. So that’s another way.
And then just email me or check back on the site.