Rocha settles in for WINTER

Leaving downstate Illinois behind to weather Chicago, Alaric Rocha possibly never imagined migrating back south after making his first suburban short, THE RECIPE, a year ago. Yet, the former Champaign filmmaker has done just that to shoot a follow-up called WINTER IN LOUISIANA starting tomorrow, February 5, in and near the backwoods property of his parents, Gil and Sherry Rocha of Oreana. Production will continue through Sunday on the project, which involves a prisoner’s escape from a chain gang and pursuit by guards and guard dogs. We won’t spill who exactly comes to the man’s aid in the climax, but luckily a skinny chimney fails to appear as an obstacle on the escape route.

Not surprisingly, Rocha turned an ear towards music to find inspiration for the current Blue Bassoon Pictures film, in this case a late Eighties recording combining the seasonal standard “Jingle Bells” with an African-American spiritual, “Children Go Where I Send Thee,” played in an acoustic “New England” style. “My family and I always think [the song] sounds like a prisoner from the old South running from hound dogs and then getting scooped up [unexpectedly],” he explains to C-U Blogfidential, although we’ll skim certain details to preserve the surprise. “I took the story and made it a bit more serious, kind of a BRAZIL idea where imagination saves a person from the pressure and darkness of reality.”

Unlike the dense dystopias and fantasias dreamed up by Rocha’s personal hero, BRAZIL auteur Terry Gilliam, this film story will be staged somewhat out in the open as his parents’ property will stand in for a not-quite-urbanized South. “I needed all forest and back road locations,” describes the filmmaker when asked about returning to his native Macon County for the show. “Yes, there are probably places in the ‘burbs that are closer, but my parents own a lot of the land we’ll be shooting on … plus, Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch is in Rantoul where we’ll hopefully be shooting, too.” Of course, if that quote didn’t reveal the secret ingredient, then you haven’t been paying well enough attention, dear readers.

The WINTER crew will be a mix of metropolitan, college town, and home turf contacts. “Sam Ambler has done a lot in the area,” says Rocha of his assistant cameraman, who’s appeared in our sights recently because of his collaborations with Matt HarsH. As well, “Hugh Sullivan, who works for the [Decatur Herald-Review] paper, and Alida Duff Sullivan, who teaches at Richland Community College, are good friends with my family” and will serve as grip and stills photographer, respectively. Filling out the Blue Bassoon production team are Rachel Joy as assistant director, Ren Velarde as director of photography, Jonathan Carter as production assistant, Elizabeth Ryan on wardrobe, and Sherry Rocha cooking up craft services.

One key factor that will distinguish the look of WINTER from Rocha’s prior films is the medium. “My good friend, roommate, and co-worker Ren [has shot] a lot of 8-mm work and loves it. This’ll be the one time I won’t be able to hover over the camera – not only because there’s no flip-out screen, but also because I’m not as knowledgeable with real film,” he admits. “I’m excited to see how I do [working in the small-gauge format].” The characteristically grainy stock will certainly enhance the rustic milieu of the chain-gang break, attempted by prisoners to be played by Thomas Nicol, Elvis Garcia, and Michael Anthony Pierce. It is Pierce’s role, referred to as “Day Dreamer” in the script, whose shot at freedom is almost swallowed up by the tangled woods.

Coming back to the subject of testing out the Windy City’s artistic spoils and job market, Rocha is philosophical about what his future will entail. “The biggest advantage has been meeting more people and being exposed to more film sets,” says Rocha, who discussed the downstate era of his working career with CUBlog in 2007. “Getting work, though, has been sparse. I’ve started teaching more and really enjoy that. I am planning to get my Masters in social work so that I can create more opportunities for teaching and use filmmaking as a form of art therapy. I think the best thing about coming to Chicago is it’s helped me decide what kind of filmmaker I want to be.”

~ Jason Pankoke

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