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home : arts & entertainment : arts & entertainment July 26, 2017


7/15/2014 1:24:00 PM
Indie comedy hits trail with Lewis & Clark
By Jim Cornelius
News Editor

A new indie comedy showing this week at Sisters Movie House has some interesting Sisters connections.

"The Discoverers," partially shot in Oregon, features Griffin Dunne in the lead role. Dunne is the son of Dominick Dunne, who rather famously put a shattered life back together during a year-long sojourn in Cabin #5 at Twin View Resort in Camp Sherman. The film also features songs in the soundtrack by Gregory Alan Isakov, who was a hit at the Sisters Folk Festival a couple of years ago.

The Discoverers features Dunne as "washed-up history professor Lewis Birch (who) takes his begrudging teenage kids - Zoe (Madeleine Martin, "Californication") and Jack (Devon Graye, "American Horror Stories") - on a road trip to a conference in hopes of putting his career back on track. But when Lewis's estranged father Stanley (Emmy Award-winning Stuart Margolin) goes AWOL on a Lewis & Clark historical reenactment trek, Lewis is forced to make a family detour. The Birch family find themselves on a journey of discovery and connection as they make their own passage west."

Lisa Clausen of Sisters Movie House said, it's a "really well-done indie film on a tight budget with a first-time director. It really is about a family learning to forgive each other and heal, set within the re-enactment of the Lewis & Clark trek. Funny as hell and heart-warming, with a few scenes shot in Oregon."

Director Justin Schwarz also wrote the screenplay.

"For me the story always started with family," he told The Nugget.

He notes that family is often conversely "the source of our strength and the origin of all problems."

If that sounds a little serious for a comedy - well, that's the way it's supposed to be. Serious - and seriously funny.

"It can be heart-wrenching and funny at the same time," Schwarz said. "That's my favorite tone."

That's part of what Dunne liked about the script, too.

"A lot of humor comes out of life's difficulties," he said. "It is, indeed, poignant and kind of downright sad. But that makes the jokes, when they come, all the funnier."

Though he's never visited Sisters Country, "The place holds a very special place in my heart."

The stay at Camp Sherman may well have saved his father - and it certainly set the course for the second act of his life.

In 1979, Dominick Dunne was in terrible shape. A Hollywood producer, he was drinking and drugging heavily and had just divorced.

"He found himself burning every bridge professionally, devastated by the divorce - and broke," Griffin Dunne recalled.

He sold off his possessions, including a Mercedes, bought a "sensible Ford" and hit the road.

"He sort of drove aimlessly," Griffin Dunne said. "He had no direction. He just drove north."

Dunne doesn't know why his father veered away from the coast, but he ended up breaking down in Sisters Country - and here he stayed, in Camp Sherman.

"He lived there for a year, and that's where he taught himself to write," Griffin said. "He was getting sober and going through a real period of shame and enlightenment."

Healed by the experience, he moved to New York, just down the street from his actor son, and went on to become one of the most significant men of letters in American culture over three decades until his death in 2009.

Griffin Dunne has built a career mixing work behind the camera as a producer and director with acting in front of it. In recent years, the behind-the-camera work has predominated, but he has recently won strong notices for his performances - in "Dallas Buyers Club" and now in "The Discoverers."

There was a lot about the role of Lewis Birch that resonated with Dunne. And, he notes, "It's very rare when people make a move where the protagonist is a guy in his 50s."

That protagonist is a "former prodigy who is going kind of sideways in life," Schwarz said.

The journey of the family in the film is toward seeing each other in a new light, while the physical trek with a group of reenactors provides an extended metaphor for the internal journey.

Schwarz sees historical reenactment as a noble endeavor - an effort to touch an authentic past - but also as a subculture with a lot of rules that are totally obscure to a layperson. That makes the field ripe for

comedy.

The idea of approaching the subculture in a comedy film had percolated for a while, but he did not want to address Civil War re-enactors because that has been done before. When he discovered a group of Lewis & Clark re-enactors in St. Louis, everything clicked. He had a journey within a journey.

Music was an important part of the film.

"There was a whole hand-made feel to everything, and we wanted a hand-made sound," he said.

For ultimately, both journeys in the film are about going "back to the elemental things and stepping away from our over-programmed, over-technological lives."

While much of the movie is shot in the east due to budget constraints, Schwarz insisted that a few key scenes be shot in Oregon.

"Nothing looks like Oregon," he said.

The Discoverers opens July 18. Visit www.sistersmoviehouse.com for show times. To view the film trailer, visit www.discoverersmovie.com.





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