By Mark Saldana
At the 2008 Austin Film Festival and Conference, Rachel Long and Brian Pittman caught the attention of director Dan Petrie, Jr.(Toy Soldiers) with a screenplay for a film titled Stranded. It is now six years later and Stranded is now titled Dawn Patrol and is a marquee screening at this year’s Austin Film Festival. The movie does have a compelling story that takes place in a small, working class, surfing community in California. The film stars Scott Eastwood, Rita Wilson, Jeff Fahey, Dendrie Taylor, Kim Matula, Chris Brochu and Julie Carmen. Eastwood stars as John, a young surfer-turned-Marine who must face the consequences of his actions after seeking revenge for the death of a loved one. The Sunday morning after the screening, I had a chance to speak with actors Brochu, Carmen, and Taylor who were quite taken with the story and writing, and obviously have much credence in the messages of the movie.
Mark: What was it about the screenplay that made you want to become a part of this film? Were there any personal connections to themes?
Chris Brochu: I enjoy the surf culture, but it really did come down to the writing. it’s gritty and it’s real and it doesn’t leave you with a warm, fuzzy feeling. The part of Ben really called to me as a whole. Ben was kind of this raw power–98 percent power, 2 percent fish. I literally got like five pages in and yeah, I was in.
Julie Carmen: I think that racism is a major theme in Dawn Patrol and I really like the ways the writers made it experiential for the audience. The only characters the audience could identify with and empathize with are the family that has racist, localist, xenophobic views. Then the audience has to face their own assumptions and expectations. I like the surprises. I also feel a major theme in the film is stopping the cycle of violence. There’s this, “eye for an eye, I want a grave to cry on and a grave to spit on”, and we’re seeing this globally in the United Nations. There’s anger going both ways. What generation is going to stop the cycle of violence? That is why I took the role. Anyone who can stop the violence, more power to them. Make other choices.
Dendrie Taylor: I felt extremely moved when I read the script because I think it doesn’t have much, if any violence on the screen, but is very violent in what happens to the people involved. So, to me the film is about the effects of war, violence, and prejudice on the characters. Every action has an equal or greater reaction and I feel that’s what happens. Every action that the characters take comes back to them. Underlying the actual plot, there are some themes that are very resonant to me.
Mark: (To Chris and Dendrie) What set this role apart from other work you’ve done?
Chris: It’s a more adult film, than what I’ve been a part of. I’m assuming it’s going to be rated R. (Laughs) So there’s definitely that, that section of filmmaking. It’s the first time I’m able to do that. It’s freeing for me, especially with the role of Ben. A lot of the other stuff is more family oriented. Dawn Patrol has set off a chain reaction of where I can actually start breaking into that side of filmmaking which is a bit more real and a bit more authentic.
Dendrie: I’ve been fortunate to work on some pretty amazing movies, so I’ve had a lot of those gem experiences that I will never forget. I would say on this one, the people. I was astonished by how wonderful it was to work with Rita (Wilson). Jeff (Fahey) is an amazing human being, besides actor. Scott (Eastwood) was incredibly generous. I love Kim (Matula) and Chris. It was a wonderful group of people that we managed to stay connected, which usually doesn’t happen after you wrap. Even if you have all good intentions. I attest that to the producer and director, the tone set, and the people who they were attracted to and the people attracted to the project. I believe we end up doing these projects for a reason. and sometimes it is to learn something about life, good lessons or bad lessons. I think we are flocking to these projects not accidentally.