Saturday, March 6th, 2010
By William Kincaid
Rockford man debuts film
"Beating Traffic" tells story of high school sweethearts who grow apart
Rockford resident and award-winning playwright Len Archibald, 31, keeps a notebook and pen under his pillow to capture his fleeting, hypnagogic thoughts and ideas.
Those ideas led to his first full-length feature film, "Beating Traffic." The movie, shot mostly in Rockford, tells the story of two high school sweethearts who grew apart.
"It is 100 percent what I wanted," said Archibald, who has directed several plays, shot documentaries and short films and worked at local civic theaters. He has lived in Rockford since 2005 and also works at Central Mutual Insurance in Van Wert.
He is especially proud of a scene filmed at Rockford's Shanes Park.
"It's the best thing I've ever shot," he said.
In the film, Crystal, played by Crystal Cully, leaves to pursue acting, while Jay, played by Jonathan Perkins, stays to help his struggling family in Rockford. Crystal reemerges in Jay's life and the couple must decide whether to take a chance on each other or let fate decide the path of their relationship, Archibald said.
Archibald said he tried to convey the nature of relationship in the current U.S. with the backdrop of economic stagnation.
"The small-town feel is definitely there," said Perkins, a 25-year-old student and actor from Van Wert.
Archibald himself admitted that rural bound relationships are much different than those in the city, where everything is fast-paced and no one cares who you are or what you do.
"Everyone knows what you're doing (in a small town)," he said.
The character Jay is a talented singer and songwriter whose passion dissipates after living at home for a few years after high school.
"After awhile, it just sucks the life out of you," Archibald said about people losing inspiration.
The film was shot in black-and-white as the camera never moves, a style Archibald said was influenced by Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu's 1953 film "Tokyo Story."
"I wanted it to be very photogenic," Archibald said about the film, which includes a performance by his wife, Jessica Archibald.
After obtaining the necessary equipment in August, Archibald contacted Perkins - the two had met at a local theater and discovered a common affinity for foreign films - and decided to make a movie.
"It was a three-month process," Archibald said about the script. "The skeleton of it came pretty quickly."
Over a dozen local actors and others volunteered to make the movie, which was filmed over eight weeks in November and December.
"This is a no-budget film," Archibald joked. "Everyone volunteered their time and resources."
Some Rockford residents were surprised to see the cameras and filming, he added.
"A lot of it takes place in Rockford - everyone was really cool," he said, adding village officials allowed the team to film locally.
Once filming was completed, Perkins assisted with the movie's score while Archibald began editing.
"You construct a series of shots to tell the story," Archibald said about editing, adding that each images is intended to evoke emotion.
Timing, rhythm and length are all apart of the director's artistry.
"I've done some films in the past, but this is my first full feature length film," he said. "It's been a lot of fun."
Archibald said he can't hold a public screening locally because of the rules of many film festivals.
A private screening being held today is intended to create awareness for the film as the producers plan to enter competitions with the hopes of making a showing at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival in Utah, what Archibald calls the "Holy Grail" of film festivals.
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