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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Echo Park filmmaker tells the story of a tumbleweed that won’t tumble

Tumbleweed! (Short Film) from An Illusion of Movement on Vimeo.

After three years of work, Jared Varava of Echo Park and his brother, Justin, recently completed a short film titled “Tumbleweed!” The seven-minute production (shorter is better when a tumbleweed is the star of your film) focuses on a tumbleweed that is reluctant to move on as is the custom of tumbleweeds, which view the stationary plant with disdain. Why a film about tumbleweeds? Varava tries to explain:

Tumbleweeds are inherently funny to me. They have this ingrained adorable quality that doesn’t make any sense, especially if you’ve ever tried to pick one up. They are actually horribly prickly. And dirty. Actually now that the film is done, I sort of hate them.

Varava spent $100 on tumbleweeds at a North Hollywood firm that supplies greenery for films before he headed out to the desert to shoot the film. That’s when the 31-year-old Chicago native realized he could have saved that $100. “One of the dumbest things I’ve ever done, considering we were shooting in the DESERT.”

Click on the link for a Q&A with Varava

Q: Who came up with this idea? You or your brother?
Justin (brother) wrote it, that much is certain, and should be credited for laying the bones of the thing. Though, he’s told me on occasion that the initial idea came one night when he found himself in the unfortunate position of scripting a short for some graduating film student acquaintance. We were living together at the time and I was in the process of animating a stop motion music video — nights and weekends kind of thing — that ultimately took a year and two months to make. Apparently — and I can’t say I remember this actually happening since I was definitely sleep deprived and probably fending off boredom of the animation process with scotch — he came in, asked what the script should be about, and I muttered something about a tumbleweed that doesn’t tumble. He ended up writing the script for that film student, who ultimately didn’t like it, so years later after we made 2 more movies, we finally revisited the idea and figured we could pull it off.

Q: Who came up with this idea? You or your brother?
Justin (brother) wrote it, that much is certain, and should be credited for laying the bones of the thing. We were living together at the time and I was in the process of animating a stop motion music video — nights and weekends kind of thing — that ultimately took a year and two months to make. Apparently — and I can’t say I remember this actually happening since I was definitely sleep deprived and probably fending off boredom of the animation process with scotch — he came in, asked what the script should be about, and I muttered something about a tumbleweed that doesn’t tumble. He ended up writing the script for [a] film student, who ultimately didn’t like it, so years later after we made 2 more movies, we finally revisited the idea and figured we could pull it off.

Q: What inspired you to make a film about tumbleweeds?
Tumbleweeds are inherently funny to me. They have this ingrained adorable quality that doesn’t make any sense, especially if you’ve ever tried to pick one up. They are actually horribly prickly. And dirty. Actually now that the film is done, I sort of hate them.

Q: Do people think you are crazy for doing this? What kind of reaction did you get when you told people you were making this?
I think they were excited at first. It had been a couple years since our last film and the script for this one seemed to have a good response. We had this grand road trip to the desert planned out and everything, and then the film (7 minutes long) proceeded to take 3 years to finish. At that point I’m sure they all just lost interest. Now, they probably think we’re crazy that we are still talking about it after all this time.

Q: How many tumbleweeds were used in the film (Were any harmed during production?)
I had bought 10 tumbleweeds for $10 bucks a pop from a place in North Hollywood that sells “greenery” to film productions. Which in hindsight is potentially — literally — one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done, considering we were shooting in the DESERT. All the tumbleweeds, including those we got in kind via Mother Nature out there, were set free at the end of filming.

Q: How much did this cost?
With festivals and whatnot the number is still rising, but somewhere in the ballpark of 5-8 g’s.

Q: What other films have you worked on with or without your brother?
Justin and I have done four short films including “Tumbleweed!,” all of which can be seen for free at our website (www.anillusionofmovement.com). The other three are a tad longer but hopefully equally cinematic and emotionally resonate — if you’re into that kinda thing. On my own, I’ve directed a handful of music videos and I’ve DP’ed and edited a couple features that my friend Brian McGuire directed called “On Holiday” and “The Black Belle.

 Q: What’s next or what are you working on now? What do you hope to get out of having made this film?
Hoping people like it and feel some kind of emotional connection to it, for sure. If folks with dough feel emotionally connected and want to finance a feature film, we’re currently in the process of trying to realize full-length adaptation of an earlier short called “The Fourth.” That would be nice. But any emotional connection at all is pretty spectacular, really. Thanks!

One comment

  1. Cute. That took 3 years?

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