I took this picture at a remote gas station in rural Missouri recently, as a man nearby vomited his hangover from the open door of his pick-up truck. The gut wrenching sounds he made were pretty distracting, and told a story all their own, but I put that story out of my head.
I grew up near a cornfield. In fact, across the street behind our house, it was corn field as far as the eye could see, and sometimes I’d wander out there. The corn stalks were high and I couldn’t see over them. When you’re inside that, it’s disorienting. It might as well be dark. You can see your own hand in front of your face but not much of anything else. Beyond the cornfield was a forest. Beyond the forest were various trails. Beyond the trails, another forest, then dirt mounds. I didn’t technically live out in the middle of nowhere but the cornfield and the territory beyond it was its own world, cut off from everything, and it allowed me to fantasize that I did.
I’ve always liked stories about simple people who live out in the country. I don’t know that people who live out in the country are particularly simple, but in my fantasy films they are. Everything around them is quiet and still and they imagine different lives for themselves. These people don’t have internet access. They still have land lines. A movie theater several miles up the road plays one movie at a time, long enough to allow itself time to really fatten in the mind. The people in this landscape would be at home in a Willa Cather story. A cornfield is like the ocean to them; they look out into it and it seems too big, too forever, to wrap their minds around.
In my film I think this character would be a guy, probably early twenties. It’s clear he isn’t going to leave. He’ll spend his whole life there. Maybe he’ll get into some kind of trouble. Probably not. I’ll leave the secret meth lab to some other filmmaker’s action-packed scenario. It’s probably deadly to make a film about this guy because nothing much happens to him, but I like the nothing much part. I like the idea that he does whatever it is he does, every day, one day like the next, with only subtle variations. Maybe he’s secretly in love with someone or something. Maybe someone who works at this gas station. He goes there every day to buy something he doesn’t need but pretends is essential. And this person he’s secretly in love with looks at him from the other side of the counter like the cornfield, totally inscrutable.