By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood June 13, 2012 at 6:45PM
In 2008, my film WOODPECKER, a black tragicomedy which focuses on a peculiar pair of birdwatchers searching for an elusive woodpecker in the backwaters of Arkansas, premiered at SXSW. The film went on a little festival run, and then we partnered up with a small distributor.
As fate would have it, a few years later I was offered an opportunity to tour the film for two weeks throughout the South, where it would play at college campuses, community theaters and art houses from North Carolina to Louisiana. They would provide me with a rental car and I would be presenting the film and participating in Q&As along the tour.
Two thoughts gave me pause - first, the unsettling isolation and anxiety that comes with driving 4-6 hours alone each day. The other thought revolved around the fact that a few weeks earlier I had been dumped by my girlfriend and was far from recovered. The prospect of being in a car for two weeks, munching on tormenting memories, staying at poorly lit sadness-drenched highway motels... the loneliness of it all was simply terrifying.
And so, in an attempt to justify these countless hours of travel and to dodge the sweeping loneliness, I decided to try and make a small film during the tour with a few friends. Surprisingly, it worked – and far better than I could have ever dreamed, as this was genuinely the most fun I’ve ever had working on anything in my life.
Inspired by "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and Michael Winterbottom’s THE TOUR, where protagonists comedically portray tweaked versions of their real selves, our small cast and crew embarked upon the semi-fictional story of a destitute, heartbroken and hopelessly solipsistic filmmaker on a real Southern tour of his film. Guided by a 30 page outline, the tour’s rambling itinerary, and the unwavering faith in my actors and camera/soundman (we had a one person crew), we shot the film across six states in 13 days with a weekend of reshoots later, interweaving narrative threads into real settings.
RED FLAG is my fifth feature, its story nurtures several key semi-autobiographical elements, and its hero shares many fundamental similarities with me - perhaps none greater than a swollen susceptibility to the overarching fear of loneliness.