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Director Michael Harring on The Mountain, The River and The Road

Our former colleague and current filmmaker Michael Harring's latest movie The Mountain, The River and The Road is opening the Local Sightings Film Festival this Friday, October 2nd at 7pm at Northwest Film Forum. We asked him to share his experiences making the film, and here is his wonderful response:

It's so much easier to write and talk about genres and emotions that don't involve love. In order to tell you about The Mountain, The River and The Road, I can't just list off my favorite directors, or talk about my theory to creating tension, I have to tell you that writing is the best way I have to cut through the bullshit and get at that soft, vulnerable needy part of me that really wants nothing more than to stay hidden and guarded by that bullshit. Talking about love is also a little embarrassing, but for me, The Mountain, The River and The Road is a love note to several things: travel, friends, romance and family.

When I wrote the movie I was living in Los Angeles and frequently traveling back and forth between visiting family in Kernville (where my Grandma lives) and Las Vegas (where my Grandpa lived) and I had made the road trip from Seattle to Los Angeles with all my immediate needs packed into my car and just about everything else left on a curb back in Seattle. Even on such a short trip, you can lose yourself, disconnect with your time and engage with another.

In those trips it was easy to get stuck in your own head. The fear of failure was looming, questions circled about how practical it was to pursue filmmaking. For the first time you're able to see that you're nowhere near the idealistic destination you saw for yourself when you were in college talking about how you would single handedly change the face of cinema. At the same time, some of the tunnel vision I'd had while pursuing the goal of greatest-filmmaker-of-all-time started to give way. I had taken my friends and my family for granted and was waking up to the fact that they wouldn't always be around. It occurred to me that success wasn't necessarily routed in whether or not I ever amounted to something as a filmmaker or artist, but that it was equally routed in my relationships with friends and family.

It became extremely important to me to involve friends and family behind and in front of the camera. My parents play Jeff's parents. My Grandma, Aunt and Uncle play Cat's Grandma, Aunt and Uncle. I think people usually read Jeff as a stand in for myself, and that's fair, but Cat is also a part of me. She's the part of me that grew up going on family trips each year to visit my grandparents in Kernville. If this was to possibly be the only feature I would ever make, I wanted to create something that was as much a personal document for myself as much as an entertainment for everyone else.

Of course, part of reawakening the importance of relationships for me meant also exploring romantic relationships. When everything else is certain, tangible and inevitable, it's easy to neglect the importance of love. As frivolous as that may sound, sometimes you need to shed the trappings of routine and responsibility to engage, really engage another person. Ambition is wonderful and admirable, but what is it without someone to share it with. Others have put it better, but I wanted to give it a shot.

Through an amazing string of luck, I cast three incredible actors. Justin Rice was a friend of a friend of a friend. I met Tipper a year before at Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival in Birmingham, AL. And Joe, the final cast member, I met at the opening night party for The Northwest Film Forum's Local Sightings. And we made that movie.

The Mountain, The River and The Road is a love story, about a boy who meets a girl, about my family, about the particular state of your mind when you travel. I wish I could say that everything was as idyllic as my intentions, that everything was a peachy love fest and that production was a breeze, but that's just what happens when idealism meets reality. You learn and you move on and you realize that next time will be better and now you have to do it again.

That's the way things go, but what's most important is what you end up with and through all the learning, idealism and challenges we made a really cool film. Come see The Mountain, The River and The Road and tell me what you think.

Thank you so much, Mike and congratulations on your excellent film. You can watch the trailer for The Mountain, The River and The Road here, and you'll find Mike's previous films Cardinal and Driving Around, Following Strangers in the Local Films section here at Scarecrow.

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