Road Kills (2017)

Sometimes we make a wish to change our path. Sometimes, to give us strength to do what we know we must. Even when it impacts those closest to us.

Written & Directed by Rob Bowen
Producer: Chloe Carr
Starring: Kat Dowell, Jake Zindorf, Chloe Carr
With: Rashad Ligon, Kimberly Holcomb, and Avery Holcomb

Awards/Recognition

- Was made for and won 2nd Prize in the Judging at Colorado Springs 2nd Annual 14’ers Film Festival – December 2016

Reviews

“Road Kill, a well crafted film by a young group of inspired filmmakers. Interesting story line and good script. Critically, the “F” word was used more in 11 minutes than Scorsese‚Äôs Good Fella’s did in one hour and 50 minutes. (Just sayin’) Has a strong Tarantino-Scorsese vibe. If it’s intended I dislike the character Andy, well done! The supporting actors delivered an authentic, believable performance. Hopefully the producers paid them well, as they made Andy palatable. I would watch it again. And again.
~ EJ Carr – Hollywood Reporter “In Training”

Director’s Notes

Last year, at UCCS, a festival was started that allowed up to 14 teams of student filmmakers to accept a shared prompt and make a 14 minute or less short film based around it. Each team would then have 14 days from the day they received the prompt to write, shoot, edit and overall complete their shorts. This year, the festival returned and Chloe Carr and myself signed up as team co-Captains to take on the task of creating a film in 14 days based on the prompt “a character makes a wish at a wishing well, and voice says ‘I wish you hadn’t done that’.” After we assembled our base team at the info night, we decided on team assignments (I myself being the writer and director) and a genre direction (dark comedy). That night on the ride home from campus, I figured out the main plot, and by 1 a.m. I was emailing Chloe (our Producer) the completed first draft of the script!

I really liked the prompt, because as soon as I heard it, in my head, I heard the follow up line of dialog that would be delivered in our film, and from there, so much of the story just flowed. And as the story came together, I drove passed the same poor dead raccoon on the side of the road coming off the highway in Manitou that I had been driving passed for a couple of weeks now. Still there, almost as if the world had just deemed the poor thing unworthy of any consideration in its death. Leading up to the festival, I had been seeing the raccoon and thinking that I should get some footage of the fallen little beasty that I could use in some sort of horror, Texas Chainsaw kinda script one day, but that night as I drove passed I thought, “what if I got some footage and used him for this new script to set up a mirroring of sorts, a proverbial bookending for the narrative I was piecing together?”

As I wrote it into the script, it so clicked the rest of the story into place, that I ended up naming the film after the theme it presented me with, instead of basing the title around this year’s prompt as we did last year. And in this way, I felt I was honoring the poor raccoon left behind by the world, who would at least have a sort of cinematic memorial through the film. After Chloe signed off on the script that night, I set out the next morning, and captured the only shot in the film that was recorded outside of the one Sunday window of time we would end up being to schedule for shooting (based around everyone’s schedules that we had begun casting).

These casting choices had proven beneficial as our leading lady Liz was set to be an actor I had worked with a number of times and she was always wonderful, and they presented us with an opportunity to expand the narrative and include an interesting visual thread that would have tracked throughout. Originally, our wholly unlikable leading man, Andy (thank you All that Jazz and New York New York from my Hollywood Musicals class this semester for priming me so wonderfully for creating Andy) was set to be played by two actors. Each time we were set to see Andy in the film through Liz’s direct POV we were going to have the second actor step in for those scenes to indicate how differently Liz saw him versus how the rest of the world did.

Unfortunately, when we lost our Liz three days before the shoot we scheduled (largely around her availability) we also lost our second Andy who came as a package deal with our other actor. With her suddenly scheduled to work for the Sunday where we scheduled everyone else for an all day 10am to 9pm shoot, we were thrown a huge curveball. However, after the previous year’s experience with losing all three of our actors the day of the shoot for our 14’ers submission, having three days seemed like a lot of time to work with making this work.And work it did! While we ultimately had to scrap the two Andy’s idea, which really hurt and sucked for me as the writer and director, because I had become hooked on this idea and was loving the depth it added to the visuals, I couldn’t be more proud of the work our main Andy, Jake Zindorf, brought to the role. He made the character everything I wanted it to be and more! From the first take of the day, where I had been going off the two Andy concept for a few days and was seeing him as Liz does too, through rose colored glasses of sorts, reading a little bit of softness to him, Jake was playing the character absolutely devoid of any of that, and it was just what the film needed.

Jake did so well with the character that he even commented after the cast and crew screened the rough cut, how uncomfortable the scene plays with the kiss, and wondered if it should be cut down to make it less so. Once I explained to him that this scene should be every bit as uncomfortable as it plays, for so many reasons narratively, he was fully on board and understanding (having unintentionally played right into that aspect of the exchange so wonderfully), and the scene remained as it was originally shot and cut. Finding Kat Dowell as our replacement Liz was absolutely like the universe had this planned from the start, and it was just the way the film goddesses had arranged for things to fall into place.

She was so pitch perfect for the role, and brought so much depth of heart to the portrayal of Liz, with the reflective intensity the part absolutely demanded, that I cannot fathom the film being done any other way. Nothing against the actor we originally cast, I know she also would have done great things with the part, but Kat took Liz everywhere I expected her to go and beyond. In fact, when we shot the first take on the scene where Liz is visited by her Mom’s ghost, Kimberly commented on how potent and moving it was looking into Kat’s eyes. After we finished the scene, Kat informed us that she had lost her mom only two months prior and how much she was impacted by the sequence. It made us all feel the scene that much more.

Having my dear friend Kimberly Holcomb and her daughter Avery play Liz’s Mom and our Young Liz was a no-brainer. We had long talked about working on one of my films together, and so I wrote the parts with them in mind, and it just so happened they were available the afternoon we were set to shoot. I was also floored by how much Avery and Kat actually resembled one another, seeing them together for the first time when we shot the film. Again, all the stars were aligning, and it was seemingly destined for us to pull off the film in the single day shoot we had prepped and planned for. But the day would not be without its delays and setbacks (regardless of the film goddesses smiling down on our production and our completing the first two sequences on our shot sheet ahead of schedule).

After hours long delays getting the squib shot to fire correctly, and in turn, costing Chloe the charge on her car’s battery as we were shooting after dark and some of the final scenes of the film, we managed to regroup and get the shot we needed, allowing us to move on to the final four. Not like a sports final four, but the final four scenes on our shot sheet for the day, all set in Liz’s apartment. Running over by hours on the last set of shots, meant calling an audible on our final location for the evening, and adjusting the where and some of the setups. As our original location had a glass top dining room table that I knew we would have access to, I had to improvise a glass “table top” out of a square piece of glass that I had as an insert on a small coffee table I picked up years ago at the thrift store to keep the shots I really wanted in the film (the “Rob Bowen shots” as Chloe would call them seeing me framing them on the camera, and admittedly ranking as one of my favorites of the day).

And what was set to be wine offering solace in the final shot, became a bong rip that we had to improvise somewhat last minute as well. I love that scene because it was so tonally perfect and what we needed to end the film on. For I realized when penning the scenes that immediately preceded it, that I had lost the dark comedy thread our team had agreed on, and was trudging truly in the dark side of the arena. So the scene was the final breathe of relief for the audience and the characters themselves after what they had all just come through.

Overall, the day and entire experience was a huge win for us all, and cap that off with the 2nd place win at the festival, and I could not be more blown away and proud of the work that our amazing cast and crew put forth that day. As I told all who were present for the final shots, I will echo here again, with what we managed to accomplish in that one day, no matter the festival results, we were all already winners for achieving what we did from 10am to 11pm that Sunday in late November. Well done, team. Well done, indeed.

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