Gus Edwards and I started Running Wild Films in the summer of 2010. It began something like this:

I was hungry to make a movie, starved for a good story. See, I hadn’t worked on anything since my final film at ASU. It was a dry period for storytelling, filled only with some fiction work. I asked Gus if he had anything. I bought the rights to his short play Man/Woman/Hotel Room for a dollar. Less than a month later, we were crammed in a seedy (not seedy enough for me) motel room on Van Buren. It was me, Emilio Mejia Jr, and the two actors: Dean Veglia and Kelsi Zahl. We set a standard for time and money. The movie cost less than a hundred dollars and we shot it in one night. It felt good and suddenly, Gus and I were on a roll. We came up with a name, Running Wild Films, and stuck with it.

I feel that it’s time to look back briefly at the projects we have done. With our first feature done, another on the way, and a whole new set of shorts ahead of us, this is a retrospective of the first year of Running Wild. So here is Man/Woman/Motel Room and keep reading for a brief history of our work up until now.

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The Night Life was another dark, two character piece with one half of the Man/Woman team present (Kelsi Zahl). She delivered a satisfying performance as the possibly crazed wife/girlfriend who approaches her guy’s lover beyond a bar. Jessica Weaver played opposite. It was the first time we really played with covering whole dialogues in wide frames.

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With Encounter, we changed up the mood with a little sex romp. Working again from a piece written by Gus Edwards, we “encountered” numerous issues on a hot day in Arizona. The best part of the whole experience was the discovery of Scott Scheall, a non-actor acquaintance of mine, who turned out to behave in a fresh, natural way in front of the camera. I knew we’d cast Scott again.

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Gus and I went to L.A. to shoot Eddie Jones performing the monologue Absolution. It was the first time I’d met Eddie, but I’d seen him in many memorable character roles throughout the years, especially his turn in The Grifters. I find Absolution important because it emphasizes writing and performance, stripped bare of all production value. Gus’ writing and Eddie’s acting can hold someone’s attention and that’s a testament to the core of good storytelling.

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The Young Wife was another attempt at a two-character dialog piece. We started to play with the detective character (rather young detectives). I would never want to be as direct and preachy again, but the locations are unique and that’s something that marks our work.

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McKenzie Goodwin, no longer with Running Wild, directed The Gardener. I gave it to her because she wanted to get more experience. Gus and I stayed out of the process entirely and the finished result showed how much perspective can alter story. Whereas originally about a young man’s inability to hold back his emotions and his melancholic withdrawal, a female perspective turned him into a creepy goof. As Gus has reminded me, fifteen directors could make the same exact script with identical casts and come up with fifteen films very different from each other.

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We returned once again to Gus’ writing with The Guitar. I remember how relaxed the shoot was. Now, relaxed is different from lazy. Gus and I worked diligently at a calm place, piecing this little story together. We’d eat, work, talk, work, eat some more, and work. I felt the ease of a foreign shoot without the frantic on-set mentality common to most of my previous experience.

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The Blind Man was a breakthrough. I can’t analyze it. All I can say is that thus far it is the work closest to me. D.H. Lawrence is a writer who has consistently captured my attention, from his poems to his essay Why the Novel Matters. I know I will return to him.

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It’s important to experiment and like Cassavetes to not worry whether you succeed or fail. Detective’s Calendar is an odd little visual mash-up of scenes from another young detective’s life. We worked with the Flip camera and we enjoyed how easy it was to sneak into places with it, how light and physical you could be while using it.

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I cast Dean Veglia, an actor I love to work with, in Last Kiss at Sunset along with Sandy Kim, who we’d recently cast in our first feature. We held up in my apartment, let the day pass before us, worked with the DVX 100 for one of the last times, and reached for some sort of quiet romance between two people. Did we find it? I don’t know.

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When I saw the Weekend Project post on Vimeo concerned Film Noir (one of my obsessions), I knew we had to participate. With only a night to pull it together, we again experimented with the small moments in the life of a detective. Smashing vinyl and picking nose hairs and almost kissing women on train tracks… perhaps developing a sort of new-noir.

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In June of 2011, we shot our first feature film, The Big Something. With a miniscule budget, a committed crew and the best actors we could round up, we tested the Arizona heat for fourteen days and came out with a good story. Soon to be released, here is a brief taste.

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The last of what I’d consider the first year of Running Wild Films was Two Voices. A variation on Gus’ monologues and another experiment in perspectives (two actors as well as two directors), I feel that it stands out as bold and like Absolution brings us back to the bare essentials of storytelling.

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As Running Wild moves into another year of storytelling, we will continue to reach out in new ways. We will not be stagnant or safe. We aim to find a new cinema at any cost.

-Travis Mills