|Rain in the Mountains Press Coverage|
Location, location, location.
It’s one of the most important factors when shooting a movie and precisely the reason director and Olympia native Joel Metlen chose downtown Centralia as the site for several scenes in his first full-length independent film, “Rain in the Mountains.”
“This downtown area is just beautiful,” he said, standing on he corner of Tower Avenue and Magnolia Street early Tuesday morning. “You don’t see this on film a lot. It’s unique.”
Metlen, whose script earned a financial grant from his alma mater, New York University, first happened upon a photo of downtown Centralia while surfing Washington state tourism Web sites, and he instantly became enamored with its classic storefronts, buildings and thriving atmosphere. “It just really fit the movie and what we are trying to do,” he said.
The film, a comedy, is essentially the story of an American Indian man who, in an attempt to be a good father, tries to teach his son the ways of his ancestors, although he knows nothing of those ways.
The result, Metlen said, is a series of humorous misadventures that include a sunken canoe, a collapsed tepee and the accidental hunting of a neighbor’s cow.
However, aside from the comedy, Metlen and co-director Christine Sullivan hope to make a more serious statement.
“It also deals with a lot of the problems facing Native Americans today,” said Metlen, who is part Iroquois Indian. “It shows, in a really exaggerated way, the difficulties of defining oneself culturally.”
Inspiration for the film first came to Metlen as he drove through the Colville Reservation with his father many years ago, visiting the grave of Chief Joseph along the way.
“It was just such a basic, simple grave site for such a great man,” he said. “I won’t ever really forget that day; it has driven this project in ways.”
Centralia is just one of the many Western Washington locations chosen by Metlen and co-director Christine Sullivan, who is also an NYU graduate, as sites for the film, which is expected to be finished early next year.
The six-person crew has already filmed scenes in Capitol Forest, the Mima Prairie Glacial Heritage Preserve, and an old saloon in Porter.
Metlen estimates that the filming portion of the project is about two-thirds complete.
Dave Eatwell, Centralia downtown economic development coordinator, who himself was a director for more than 20 years, thinks Centralia is head and shoulders above the rest as far as filming locations go.
“We have a very rare thing here,” he said. “You don’t find a downtown that has been maintained like this very often. Most towns have had their old buildings torn down, but these are in great shape and provide a great backdrop.”
Eatwell believes the city could benefit from further promotion of its downtown.
“Things like this are good for the city, great publicity,” he said. “I’m surprised we don’t support (filmmaking) more. Look what has happened to tourism in New Zealand since the first ‘Lord of the Rings’ movie.”
Though “Rain in the Mountains,” which is a working title that will likely be changed, may be a far cry from a blockbuster such as “Lord of the Rings,” the crew still hopes to see it pop up on at least a few silver screens.
“We don’t have a distributor yet,” said public relations manager John Ott. “But we will take it to festivals, and, hopefully, we can even have some screenings in the Centralia area. The ultimate goal would be to have it go to some theaters.”