Fancast Movie of the Week: A Slice of True Midwestern Life in Zip Code “45365”

Once a week, we’ll pick out one of Fancast’s many full-length free feature films to spotlight. Sure, you’ll check out the big stuff like Primal Fear, For the Boys and The Doom Generation, but the smaller movies need shout-outs, too.

The Movie of the Week is 45365, part of SnagFilms’ SummerFest and the very definition of a “slice of life” film. Sidney, Ohio natives Turner and Bill Ross have created a pastiche of day-to-day life in their hometown without preconceived notions, without agendas and even without narration. It lets you exist in this world that so many people ignore as “flyover country” and so many people tend to make assumptions about. Ride along with the police, enjoy a parade, discuss bat guano and marijuana in a barn, ride rides at the fair, watch a high school senior deal with her boyfriend problems and even see the lives of criminals young and old in zip code 45365.

Check out Fancast’s Movie of the Week 45365, and read the Q&A with filmmakers Turner and Bill Ross after the jump.

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Q&A with 45365 filmmakers Turner and Bill Ross

Q: So, why Sidney, Ohio?
Turner Ross: Sidney was where we grew up. Sidney’s our home town, and while we left there each respectively at the turn of 18, it’s definitely a place that stuck with us, and it’s a place that hasn’t necessarily been identified. I think it speaks for a lot of places in America, not even necessarily the small town. It’s a place that speaks for experiences across a large section of America.

Q: How did you choose the subjects for this film? Was it whoever agreed to be filmed, people you knew personally, or…?
TR: A little bit of everything. Before going back, we initially wanted to think about ‘what is it that we need to capture to know that we have the content and the substance that will make up a film?’ So we set out with a list of typesets or characters, people who might be able to speak for a certain cross-section of the community so that we would have this well-rounded mosaic – or at least hoping for that. We had generic sub-headings like ‘police officer’ or ‘criminal’ or ‘girl in high school,’ things like that. We mapped out this little picture before we went. Some of those are easy to fill, you know. You just go find the people who fit these and see if they’re compelling or see if they can lead us to another story. Through those initial contacts, it often led to a new situation. We might be in an environment when that story bleeds into another story and we’re with a whole new set of people. I think some of the most compelling characters actually were people who just came up to us as we were filming in the town and offered to have their lives become a part of it.

Q: Who just came up out of nowhere and volunteered as opposed to being sought out?
Bill Ross: The little boys – we were shooting at the fair one night, and I was just picking up B-roll type stuff, and they came up to me and asked me what I was doing, and I explained it to them and they got pretty excited and they asked if they could be in it. I said ‘absolutely’ and for the rest of the night. I went with them on all the rides which, filming aside, was pretty fun [laughs]. Our relationship with them started, and from there we shot with them for probably six months.

Q: Did the one kid afraid of vomiting actually puke on the rides?
BR: [laughs] He was fine. He did go on all the rides. He didn’t throw up, no.

Q: Did you have any angry denials or people who wanted to rescind their agreement to be in the film?
TR: Nobody really backtracked.
BR: We got threatened a couple times.
TR: I was out with Justin and Stacy, the mother and son in the film, driving around with them one night and we went to the local bar at about 1:00 in the morning and there was a large gentleman there who wasn’t really fond of the idea of me being inside.
BR: You were interrupting his…
TR: Interrupting his business, I think. A little bit of trafficking going on in the bar.
BR: Ah, don’t make assumptions!
TR: Well, something. At any rate, it was significant enough for him to threaten to shove my camera somewhere.

Q: Was it hard to get people to act natural around the cameras?
TR: Well, the way that we set it up, we’d usually talk to these people ahead of time, tell them what we’re doing, saying “we’re not doing any interviews, we’re not going to talk over the footage that we capture here, we’re not really even going to try to edit around you. We just want to exist in your space.”
BR: We also tell them that, should things become uncomfortable for them, we’ll absolutely shut the camera off if that’s what they want. But that’s never been an issue.
TR: People are increasingly more and more comfortable with it. Really good experience up there with people just sort of existing in front of the camera.

Q: How is this film laid out? It seems pretty serendipitous that you found “the criminal” and got all that footage of him talking about cleaning up his life, and then he gets arrested later out of nowhere. Did you get that part first and go back and get the other stuff?
TR: The connection is not necessarily laid out there, but the older ex-con who gets arrested is the father of the younger guy who’s later arrested. I had been filming with the younger guy and his mother for a while, and we were out filming with the police one day, and we got a call over the radio and we went to this house and there in the yard was this guy’s father. So that’s actually where we started filming, in terms of a linear progression. When he was released, I just went back to the house and told him we weren’t doing a video for COPS. I was more interested in what he was up to, so we had more of the character-based stuff with him after the fact.

Q: How was this put together? There’s that opening scene where things in different places seem to be happening simultaneously – the cop listening to the DJ, for instance at the same time you’re filming both. Is this generally in chronological order or are you jumping around?
BR: It’s a case-by-case situation. In order to tie everything together, yeah, there was a bit of clever editing going on, maybe placing some audio in certain spots to maybe make things more coherent, but for the most part, everything is pretty much as it happened.
TR: A lot of the time, Bill and I were actually running two cameras in separate places, so a number of those instances are really able to be a back and forth.

Q: What would you say is the overall message that you’d want audiences to take away from this film, if any?
TR: I don’t know if it’s so much of a message as we were trying to capture more of a feeling. This is not an issue-based film and we certainly aren’t trying to direct any attention on to “the plight of Middle America” or “the struggle of the small town” or anything like that. We just wanted to allow people in a place to speak for their experience. To just sort of exist there. You’ll take from that what you will. Our motivation in making it was to capture a time and place, and moreso, a feeling of a time and place. This idea of just being with these people creates its own nostalgia for a place. We didn’t approach it with any sort of intention in the afterword. It was more of a motivation up front. It’s open for interpretation, what you want it to be.

Q: What would you say to someone sitting down to watch this for the first time to prep them for what they’re about to see?
TR: Clear your head. We hesitate about giving anybody any preconceived ideas about it, because I think it is something you sit down and just spend time with. Slow down and just go to Sidney, or go wherever it takes you.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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