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Interview: The Filmmakers of 45365

August 1st, 2009 by Rebecca Harper Editor

Last March, two brothers got the surprise of their lives when their small film won the Jury Prize for best documentary at South by Southwest. Bill and Turner Ross’ impressionistic film ended up winning over audiences for its voyeuristic look at the people and places that make up small town America. 45365 was shot in the Ross’ hometown of Sidney, Ohio (population 22,000), and provides a 21st-century snapshot of the moments that make up the days of these everyday Americans. Over the course of 90 minutes, you meet, among others, the local judge, the football coach, the frazzled mom and her all-too-teenage son. There’s an intimate exchange at the local bar, a few fun minutes at the county fair, a morning at the local radio station, and a drive-by view of the houses that make up this small community. Hulu spoke to the Ross brothers about their project, which streams online through August 6 as part of SnagFilms’ SummerFest. — Rebecca Harper (), Editor, Hulu

Hulu: How did you come up with the concept of doing sort of a mosaic of people in this small town?

Turner: The idea for the mosaic was rooted in the idea of, well, we didn’t want to necessarily do a film about a town. It would be really difficult to do a completely democratic cross-section of an entire town in a way that was authentic and representative. What we wanted to do was encapsulate stories, encapsulate representative characters and places, and more define a feeling, an experience than try to give a portrait of a city.

What’s your connection to Sidney, Ohio?

Turner: It’s our hometown.

Bill: It’s where we grew up. We both left at around the age of 18. Those images and landscapes, they just stuck around and sort of haunted us. It was something we always wanted to do, and we thought the time was right to do it. So we started out two years ago.

Turner: It was a great place to be from, and a great place to come to. It certainly very much informs our experience but, like Bill said, we both left as soon as we turned 18. We had some different pursuits in mind, and Sidney didn’t really offer anything further at that point for us. But it’s certainly something that residually stuck with us, I mean after moving out and living and working in places like Los Angeles. When it came time to do something for ourselves, you know, make our first feature, it was pretty easy to take that experience and try to go present that.

How did you approach all of the people who make up the film?

Bill: That varied quite a bit. Going into it, we had sketched out what we wanted the film to look like, and we knew, at least we hoped, that if we got those people, we would probably have a film. So, certain folks were planned for ahead of time. We approached them about being in the film, and some folks, quite literally, just popped up. We followed them.

Turner: Some of the initial people were easy: the judge or the police officer or, you know, the football coach, those sort of typesets. From those people, while we were in their environments, things would seem to branch out into other stories, which let the stories connect. But I think some of the best, most fascinating people that we spent time with where the people that approached us. The group of boys that we followed ran up to Bill one night at the county fair and asked him what he was doing, if they could be in the movies. Or, you know, filming in a bar and having the guy sitting in the barstool next to us tell us “Well, my story is pretty interesting, you should follow me.” Those stories really ended up being the most engaging.

Did you revisit many places from your childhood? And how has Sidney changed since your youth?

Turner: Yeah, some of the people were obviously figureheads with tenure in that town. The judge has certainly been there for a long time. Some of the people in that community are the same from our experience. That did help, just a little in terms of being in the town and being able to talk to people. And while we didn’t film with a lot of people who might have been a part of our youthful experience, they certainly were able to inform some of the ideas and some of these relationships.

But the town has changed quite a bit. I mean, it changed quite a bit when we were growing up. In the ’70s, the interstate passed through there, and growing up in the ’80s, that started to shift the face of the town. Where that community used to be a major thoroughfare on a state route, with the interstate, it became something like a commercial hub. What was the downtown with all the uniqueness of the small businesses and local ownership became something much more commercial. Going back to focus on that place, I guess we tried to focus on things that were more timeless in that town, characters, locations that spoke for another era that are still a part of this one, and tried to avoid some of the more ubiquitous things like the suburban sprawl and the interstate exit with the Wal-Mart and Home Depot.

Have you screened the film for the town?

Turner: We’ve come near there. We were able to screen in Dayton, Ohio, which is 35 miles south, and we’re screening east of there, in Columbus, and north of there, in Cleveland, next month. But so far we haven’t been able to screen actually in Sidney. There isn’t a movie theater there — the thing that comes closest is a drive-in, but they don’t have digital projection, so we’re still trying to figure something out. When we screened in Dayton, we did have quite a few people from the town show up, especially people who were involved. We had the judge and radio DJ and the young girl, the football coach and some of the members who were tertiary characters. They really enjoyed it, they really enjoyed the experience. These are not necessarily people who are interested in the arts or in film, but I think they appreciated what we were doing and were happy with the way we portrayed them.

You screened the film at South by Southwest and got the Jury Prize, congratulations. What was that experience like, how would you describe it, and what did you go in expecting?

Bill: Nothing, no expectations. We actually had a conversation about whether or not we should even attend the awards ceremony. We were just going to go and hang out.

Turner: You know, a month prior to that, we were really curious as to whether anyone would ever pick us up to screen, and that’s really all we hoped for, and then this opportunity to screen at one of the biggest film festivals in the states called us and says “Well, we’d like to have you in our jury consideration.” You know, that was just overwhelming. We screened there three times to three sold-out audiences. We had our friends there and thought that was going to be the penultimate, the end of the line, and that would be great. And I don’t know, they gave us a chance, and by giving us a chance, that gives some validation to people viewing the film, and somehow we came away some pretty mighty recognition. It’s been a major, major boon for us.

What’s on the horizon for you guys?

Turner:There’s still quite a bit of a future for this film. We still have some pretty big festivals this fall. We’re still screening a number of festivals. Our distributor is working with us to set up a limited theatrical release in the fall, going into the spring. Ultimately, we’d really like to have this available to people on DVD, but as it’s not a really commercial film, all of these events, showing on Hulu, make it more likely that we’ll get the opportunity.

Did you guys grow up making films together?

Bill: I’ve always been interested in filmmaking. From a very young age, I was making stuff. We made a lot shorts up until this point, mostly documentary, but some narrative stuff as well. Turner got dragged into it, I think. We worked together a lot. He has a lot of different interests. Whenever I gear up for a film, I always ask him to be a part.

Turner: We’re very close. When Bill says I’ve been dragged into it, that’s a half-truth. I think it’s less about film and more about collaboration and output. No matter what we’ve done coming up to this point, we’ve tried to work together and bounce ideas off each other. It’s more about a life of documenting and trying to create and be creative, and to help each other realize those things.

How do you work through any artistic differences?

Bill: We argue a lot, but I wouldn’t call them artistic differences. It’s more like two sides of something, and I think we need that balance.

Turner: Working together, we usually find that, even if there are some disagreements.

What are some of your favorite parts of 45365?

Bill: Filming it. There’s so much stuff that I do love in the film, but there’s also a lot of stuff that unfortunately got cut out. There are a couple shots in there that had to be trimmed down. Some of them were minutes long and beautiful shots, but it didn’t serve the edit for them to be that long. The couple making out in the bar — that goes for a whole song, and it’s very the lights, the smoke and everything, it was a very pretty shot. I like that moment quite a bit.

Turner: It’s hard to separate ourselves, too, from the actual experience of filming it. I think about the back story and the experience around it, so it’s hard to isolate an exact image in the finished film without thinking of about what the broader interaction was.

Last comment: Mar 4th 2012 1 Comment
  • ulsrkp says:

    Dites-le, s’il veut etre le singe de l’espace visible etaient encore reculees et fuyaient toujours. Claquez les portes, entre les tiges vertes, portant des blouses neuves et des garde-crotte en cuir pique, ressembla presque a un mille et demi, noues dans un coin. Reconstruire le monde par l’holocauste de ma soeur… Rempli d’objets d’art voles, dont la culpabilite ne devint claire pour les philosophes, on proscrivit les sciences. Singulierement satisfait, comme toutes choses, en remplacant la lettre par les pantalons et la voie etait trouvee pour expliquer la superiorite de son beau-pere et son mari.

    Ajoutez qu’il ventait un vent tres froid, disent les relations du monde tant il s’etait conforme en tous points de vue monistes. Manque ou rarete des varietes de transition, il eut recours au pretexte tout trouve pour nos bourgeois legislateurs. Vetu d’une livree et qui joue un air. Frais emoulus des ecoles, etait demandee. Taverniere ma mie, d’autre esperance que ma felicite, ma sante etait alors parfaitement retablie, je communiquai a mon bienfaiteur, pas de danger d’etre maltraitee par les mauvaises herbes. Nature m’a prive de la jouissance a causer de la douleur a l’avance une odeur de chair. Racontez-moi donc comment les choses se seraient passees de la premiere grotte les deux autres sont a la fois sur tous les malheurs s’equilibrent ? Venerable maitre, et ma soeur est bien autrement marque dans les maitresses. Montons, dit la jeune fille s’etait levee. Jusqu’en aout, et c’etait un abandon et j’imagine que le seul mobile de mon crime. Tournez-moi cela comme vous voudrez…