No wasted motion. No superfluous scenes. Stories that are sunk to the knees in authenticity. These are the hallmarks of a film by Brad Jayne.
Most independent filmmakers aspire to produce a movie that bears a distinctive voice as well as a strong sense of place. Jayne, arguably Charleston’s most accomplished writer-director, manages it every time out.
“I’m drawn to the Romantic poets and their perception of the world, that it is ultimately a good and spiritual place, and that the bad things are there for us to learn from,” he says. “But you also must recognize the world as it is, and try to communicate that with confidence and humility.”
His latest movie, and first feature, is Warrior Road, an atmospheric slice of life cut from the Palmetto State.
Conceived as a meld of The Outsiders, Easy Rider and Stand By Me, the film was shot on 20 area locations in 29 days, financed by Charliewood Pictures, a local production and investment firm committed to developing feature films in South Carolina.
Director of Photography John David Reynolds leads an experienced creative contingent. Mark Bryan assembled the score, with charting and arranging assistance from Charlton Singleton, maestro of the Charleston Jazz Orchestra.
That the Charleston area has managed to hang on to a talent of Jayne’s caliber has much to do with deep family roots, his love of the region and a desire to tell stories that reflect its unique characteristics. More, he has devoted himself to furthering independent filmmaking in the state while shepherding his production company, Creative Forge.
Jayne tells stories not through elaborate plots or exposition, but by means of simple moments. His characters do not reveal themselves so much through dialogue as through the eyes, with back stories laid layer by layer—all in aid of naturalism.
Casting played a critical role in the new film, which employed one casting director in L.A. in charge of filling the six main parts with young, up-and-coming actors, and a regional casting director (Matthew Sefick, of Army Wives), who secured the supporting players.
Jayne believes strongly in building a rapport with actors and giving them room to breathe. As a kind of Method preparation, he had lead actors Lorenzo Henrie, Kristopher Higgins and Eddie Hassell live together for months at a house on Folly Beach to help forge a sense of kinship, which Jayne says is reflected in the movie.
Locations included Folly and Wadmalaw Islands and the otherworldly Boneyard Beach on Bulls Island, in addition to various properties of the Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission.
“We were after an epic Lowcountry feel,” says Jayne, who is in talks with national distributors. “This story has a lot of autobiographical elements to it, and as someone who spent his formative years here I have a very strong connection to the landscape and the sea. I very much consider myself a South Carolina storyteller.”
Jayne, whose work has screened at the Sundance, Palm Springs and Austin Film Festivals, debuted with the French New Wave homage Le Croisment (2004), and has gone on to direct or produce such pictures as Scattered City, The Debutante Hunters and the remarkable Song of Pumpkin Brown. Together, they suggest a motif.
“I feel a drive to convey something that is inside of me spiritually, though not necessarily in a religious sense,” says Jayne, a preacher’s son. “Religion has a place in this story, though only in a cultural context. This new movie is a spiritual allegory, my version of a sermon.”
Warrior Road (ridewarriorroad.com) will debut on the festival circuit. Meanwhile, the producers plan a sneak preview—a “community screening” in the parlance—later this month.
Bill Thompson writes about the arts, travel, film and books.