From Rainbows End to Center Stage

 

 

From Rainbows End to Center Stage

 

An interview with Eric Hueber and Andy Cope

 

By Gary Murray

 

The production duo of Eric Hueber and Andy Cope look more like two graduate students than film-makers.  With Eric’s Daniel Johnson T-shirt & heavy frame glasses and Andy with a thick dark beard, the two men look like they should be attending lectures and not out on the interview circuit.  This director-producer duo has crafted a very unusual mock documentary Rainbows End which will be a part of the Texas Film competition category at the Dallas International Film Festival. 

 

Rainbows End tells the story of a Nacogdoches guitar player Willie Edwards and his band “The Cosmic Debris” who has as a part of their drum kit actual pieces of the Challenger.  The band gets an invitation to record with The Legendary Stardust Cowboy in LA.  So the band, along with Bird Man and his two fighting cocks, opening act ‘one man band’ Peter Guzzino and locally famous twirler Audrey Dean Leighton all board a bus dubbed Green Hell and head out West. 

 

The story is of their bonding on the bus and the gigs along the way.  The unscripted story is partly true, with all the ‘characters’ not being characters but are the actual people depicted on screen.  Eric referred to it as ‘a home movie and a celebration of my friend’s talents‘.  They took three weeks to shoot the primary film and years in editing.

 

It is a loving homage to the city of Nacogdoches and to the eccentric spirit that lives the Lone Star State.  It plays somewhere between Spinal Tap and A Mighty Wind with a strong helping of The Last Picture Show and Napoleon Dynamite daubed in.  According to Andy Cope, the Tyler newspaper called Rainbows End ‘a real life version of The Muppet Movie’.

 

The cast are all friends Eric Hueber, people he has known in Nacogdoches for years.  Willie Edwards is his cousin.  Brian ‘Birdman’ Birdwell is childhood friend.  Much later in life, Eric became friends with Audrey and Peter.  All of these men had a dream of going to the golden land in California and that is where the genesis of the film was born. 

 

Eric explained, “I didn’t have the resources to make a film in a small town but I knew all these great characters and I wondered how I could put them in a movie without having them to act.  I started looking for common goals.  At the same time I didn’t want to make a documentary.  I knew to make a film I would have to put them in a scenario where they could to be themselves.  My intention was to make a ‘narrative-esque’ film, just film it like a documentary.  It feels like a put-on but it is not.”

 

One of the problems Eric had with his non-acting cast was getting them comfortable in front of the camera.  “Unfortunately,” he said, “They clammed.”  He said that he wished Birdman would have hammed it up for the camera. “Birdman is larger than life and I caught a couple of moments but I wish I could have caught more.”

 

According to Eric, Brian ‘Birdman’ Birdwell had never been as far as Lufkin and his goal in Rainbows End was to see Las Vegas.  With the brakes of Green Hell going out, they didn’t even get to cruise the Strip at night.  After the fact, Eric admits that not seeing Las Vegas at night is “to the spirit of the film.”

 

Willie Edwards and Eric Hueber are room-mates.  “Willie and I have been playing music together since 2002,” Eric said.  “He’s an interesting character.  He is a legitimate outside musician.  He plays old-style country music but he sings with his own spice.  He sings about aliens and zombies.  He’s becoming a local celebrity in Austin because he is what a lot of people want to be in Austin–legitimate real country.  But, he has a warped sense of creativity; he’s very real and organic.”

Almost as a physical character, the Green Hell bus takes center stage on more than one occasion. It is the most temperamental of stars, breaking down and giving the production more hell than any Hollywood diva.  “I acquired the bus from Mazzio’s (Pizza restaurant in Nacogdoches) and I realized now why he was willing to give it to me so cheap.”

 

The film production started in 2003 and the bus broke down before they reached the city limits of Nacogdoches.  In 2004, they attempted the trip again but with a second camera man.  A major amount of the finances in Rainbows End was repairing the Green Hell. 

 

Andy Cope said that the only part of the film that was scripted was the voice-over narration. “It is 95% documentary, 3% tall tales and 2% BS.  And the narration is the BS part,” he said.  “Nothing with anyone on screen is scripted.”

 

“Surprisingly,” Andy said that some audience members have believed the movie was real all the way through, “even with all the historical inaccuracies. “  Eric added at one screening a young lady said that she didn’t want to hear the Q&A.  He said that she said, “I just want to believe it is all real and would be hurt to hear that anything is not.” 

 

Eric said that editing the film is the credit he is most proud of.  “I had 110 hours of footage, no script.  Do the math on how low it takes to watch 110 hours of footage just to see what you have.  But to actually edit to what you have, I’m pretty proud of that effort.  That is what took me so long to make the film.”

 

He tried to bring on different editors at different times, but they could not make sense of all the raw materials.  “Ultimately, it is my story,” Eric said, “because for me, the whole collective act was my friends coming together to make a movie.”

 

The biggest lesson Eric learned from making Rainbows End, he laughed and said, “I will never make a movie without a script.”

 

With so much raw footage Andy Cope said that there will be many DVD extras, concentrating on establishing the characters.  Eric added, “Part of the issue of the film is that we had to hurry up and get out on the road.”  Though they tried adding character details in flashback, it became too confusing.  Eric said, “Andy made that easier for me because he would just come in and say ‘Just lose it’.”  Andy concluded by saying, “If it doesn’t tell your story, just drop it.”

 

Eric is currently working on a project in Bastrop called Flutter, which is a slice of life drama about motherhood.  Since his mother recently passed he said, “I wanna make a beautiful story that celebrates her memory.”  A documentary about using insects as a food source is also on Eric’s plate.  Andy is currently helping with the production of the sequel Manos, the Hands of Fate.  

 

Eric summed up the process of making Rainbows End by saying, “To me it is a film about characters, about people.  I got an entertaining group of friends, let’s go entertain some people and see whatever happens—happens.  I think that is why the film resonates with people.  That makes me happy.”

 

Rainbows End plays at the Dallas International Film Festival on Friday, April 1, 2010 at 10 PM and on Sunday, April 3 2010 at noon at the Magnolia.

 

 

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