This is the second in a two part series I’m writing about how I became involved in the short film The River Bride. Here is pt. 1.
I first met JR Wickman in the basement of Nemo Design which was functioning as the interrogation room for my first music video. JR came to me based upon a recommendation from Caitlyn who described him as ‘crazy talented’ and that wasn’t hyperbole. I’d scripted a scene to intro the music portion of the video and JR showed up with a written breakdown of how his lines would ascend ending in what he called ‘verbal castration’. To this day, that’s still one of my favorite terms. As we went through the takes, JR brought it time and again and reminded me fondly of Paul Giamatti. I immediately tried to figure out how we’d work together again.
While we saw each other socially on occasion, that opportunity didn’t come until I was thrown into directing Limbo Film’s 48 Hour Film Festival entry in 2010. For the uninitiated, the 48 Hr FF assigns you a character name and occupation, a line of dialogue and a genre all of which must be included in a film you script, shoot and edit in the course of two days.
To my initial dismay, we drew Fantasy as a genre. Thankfully through a wonderful connection, we had access to Cinema 21, an old, dusty and wonderful independent theater in NW Portland, a location that inspired what became our film Projector.
I already had a host of talented actors lined up on call, but my heart and mind settled on JR as the lead and he didn’t disappoint. Working from a rough script, he seemed to preternaturally understand my direction and he and the other actors turned it into a showcase selection that those in attendance refer to as ‘the sad film’. In a sea of films centered around dick jokes, I wear that title like a badge of honor and it’s a credit to the thoughtful performance JR and his co-star Brynn Baron give. Also, it was a ridiculous amount of fun to make, and lifetime friendships were forged leading up, but definitely during, the wrap party.
At this point our working relationship was cemented so the next time I had a project, I called JR. I’d just been to see him perform in Danny and the Deep Blue Sea at the wonderful, emerging Action Adventure Theater. It was one of the best theater experiences of my life watching JR and his counterpart navigate the suffocating, awkward scenes throughout the play and I saw something new and wonderfully dark in his range. He only hesitated slightly when I asked him to play a pedophile burning evidence of his crimes. I shot numerous scenes for Still Here but JR was the only one who made my skin crawl in the process. Also, we played with fire:
So, you’re probably asking yourself, where’s the synchronicity in all of this. Well, Caitlyn and JR met during their first play in college and played opposite each other as husband and wife. We’re making a film called The River Bride. If Caitlyn’s car didn’t break down in Bend, I probably never would have cast her in my first music video and therefore wouldn’t have cast JR in what was his first music video as well. My life would be missing two of the most talented people I know and though I probably would have worked with other actors, I doubt that many of them could delight me, creep me out or take a punch like JR.