Marginalia, Graduate Blog

Escape From The City

Conor O'Farrell

Production still of a young De Niro, from Hancock's 'Bang The Drum Slowly' (1973). Courtesy Paramount Pictures.

Production still of a young De Niro, from Hancock's 'Bang The Drum Slowly' (1973). Courtesy Paramount Pictures.

Last Saturday I managed to do something that I haven’t done half enough of since arriving last August. I got out of Chicago, briefly.

I had an early morning meeting in Rolling Prairie, Indiana. Rolling Prairie isn’t what I’d describe as a sprawling metropolis—more like the sleepy southern town from the short lived American Gothic—and so, public transport wasn’t really an option unless I wanted to leave during the night. I didn’t. So, my friend Robby offered to drive. I’m producing his Special Studies II film later this semester, which is set in a motel, so the plan was to location scout on the drive back to Chicago.

Jacked up on Starbucks, we hit the road early. Thankfully, spring finally decided to kick in. I had never seen the sun so low over Lake Michigan. The water glistened, and the early morning mist that lay on the lakefront made for a picturesque start to the day. Nothing could go wrong, except Google maps. It just wasn’t biting. I could see the blue line that was the planned route and the blue dot that was our position on that line, but there was no map behind the line, just a grey grid. Fortunately Robby had a fairly decent knowledge of northern Indiana, and about an hour-and-a-half later we pulled into Rolling Prairie. There in a gutted warehouse, I sat in a makeshift production office and met with director John D. Hancock, the man behind such noted films as Bang The Drum Slowly (1973) and Lets Scare Jessica To Death (1971), who also helmed many episodes of The Twilight Zone (1985-1989) and Hill Street Blues (1981-1987).

From the original Twilight Zone title card, 1959. Courtesy CBS.

From the original Twilight Zone title card, 1959. Courtesy CBS.

Despite John’s calm demeanor, with his next feature film having just moved into pre-production it was evident that time was of the essence. And though it was a brief meeting, it was nonetheless gratifying. It was still early when we finished, and the day was getting warmer. John recommended we check out the nearby beach, so Robby and I drove north to nearby harbor town New Buffalo, Michigan. If we had left American Gothic behind, now we arrived in Dawson’s Creek‘s downtown Capeside. We grabbed some breakfast, strolled the beach, and then in the most ninja-like location-scouting manner ever, we took in about ten motels on the drive back.

It was a day of firsts. For the first time since last August, I left the Chicago city limits behind, on what happened to be the first hot day of the year. It was my first time to sit down with an Oscar-nominated director, and, taking the amount of states I’ve visited to six, it was my first time in Michigan. It was a long day that bared some of the other sides of America, taking me through towns and terrain not unlike some of the television series that defined my youth. Later that evening, as we drove back into E.R.,, the sun now setting on the opposite side, I thought to myself just what a rare and memorable day it had been.

The Poster for 'Let's Scare Jessica To Death' (1971). Courtesy Paramount Pictures.

The Poster for 'Let's Scare Jessica To Death' (1971). Courtesy Paramount Pictures.

Escape From The City

Last Saturday I managed to do something that I haven’t done half enough of since arriving last August. I got out of Chicago, briefly. I had an early morning meeting …

Cinema Art + Science - Creative Producing Conor O'Farrell, conor.ofarrell@loop.colum.edu
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

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