In Colin West’s early teens, all of his friends started playing football at Upper Arlington High School, but West didn’t make the team. He was devastated, alone.
At the time, his mother offered some very motherly advice, encouraging West to go to the neighborhood library and find some good books to read during his new downtime. West nodded, but instead of escaping into novels, he stumbled upon the video section of the library and started watching armfuls of VHS tapes and DVDs, discovering iconic filmmakers like Spike Lee, Alfred Hitchcock and Akira Kurosawa, falling more and more in love with the movies each time the credits rolled.
One movie, in particular, stood out: “Pi,” the feature debut of director Darren Aronofsky, best known for movies like “Requiem for a Dream” and “Black Swan.” West loved “Pi” so much he found Aronofsky’s email and sent the director a note. “He responded and was like, ‘Cool, man!’ And he gave me some advice on scriptwriting and stuff. We had a few exchanges, and when I wrote my first feature at 16, it was a total ‘Pi’ rip-off,” West recently said over the phone, “But it was really inspiring, because [Aronofsky] was this person that I really looked up to, and he was doing this thing. …I think it made me realize that [filmmaking] could be a real career path, because this person I had discussions with was doing it.
West found a group of movie-obsessed pals in Upper Arlington and began making goofy remakes of the films “Indiana Jones” and “The Lord of the Rings.” After graduating in 2005, he took a detour and studied sculpture and painting at Ohio State, then worked for Columbus artist Ann Hamilton before leaving for Los Angeles to pursue filmmaking. narratives, eventually earning a master’s degree in film and television production from the University of Southern California. School of Cinematic Arts. Now, nearly 20 years after being cut from the football team, West’s filmmaking dreams are coming true.
Last year saw the release of “Double Walker”, a horror film directed by West and shot in Columbus, and last month, “Linoleum”, a film written and directed by West, debuted in South by Southwest in Austin, TX. The sci-fi drama, which stars comedian Jim Gaffigan, Rhea Seehorn (“Better Call Saul,” “Veep”) and Amy Hargreaves (“They/Them/Us,” “Homeland”), also features the work of Seven Upper Arlington High School graduates, including West Class of 2005 pals Chadd Harbold and Chad Simpson as producers. The film will debut locally at the Southern Theater on Wednesday, April 27 at 7 p.m. as part of the inaugural Cinema Columbus film festival. After the screening, West will participate in a Q&A session alongside Simpson and Hargreaves.
When West wrote the first draft of “Linoleum” in 2015, he knew he wanted to make a love story inspired by his grandparents, but over time the more conventional flashbacks gave way to flourishes. surreal, although the emotional center of the film has remained the same. “Sci-fi stuff is just trailers. That’s what gets people in,” West said. “At its core, it’s a multi-generational love story.”
“Linoleum” centers on Cameron (Gaffigan), the host of a failed low-budget science TV show for children, who begins to witness bizarre happenings in the fictional suburban town of Dayton, Ohio. of Fairview Heights. While trying to navigate a difficult relationship with his wife, Erin (Seehorn), Cam sees large objects falling from the sky. A strange woman appears on his lawn. His new neighbor looks like a weird version of himself. Meanwhile, in an attempt to fulfill a childhood dream of doing “something fantastic”, Cam decides to build a rocket in his garage.
“Bill Nye is a big, big inspiration for the film – this children’s science host brings the fantastic to children, who already believe in the fantastic innately. And then, somehow, in as adults, we go to, ‘Oh, things have to be a lot more grounded and serious. They have to make sense and everything has to be rational,” West said. “It’s that struggle, I think, as as an adult, and especially as an artist, to return to your fantastic childhood self. I think this narrative was kind of about that – believing in that dream and going back to childhood and that innocence.
West was inspired by his own dreams of making teenage movies when writing the screenplay, but he also hoped to show how everyday events and relationships can lead to beautiful discoveries and places of another. world. In fact, the film’s title is meant to refer to the idea of ”seeing the fantastical in the everyday,” West said.
The script also changed based on ideas from Gaffigan, Seehorn, and the other actors. “I really like to think of actors as the department heads of their character,” West said. “It’s a very collaborative effort with the cast. I don’t come in to just tell them what to do and what’s right and what’s wrong.
In addition to creative challenges, filming in upstate New York in October and November 2020 — the pre-COVID vaccine era — required extreme caution and logistical hurdles involving testing and quarantine. Even extras had to arrive early and quarantine in a hotel, and actors had to be local because traveling across state lines required two weeks of quarantine.
After:After COVID filming hurdles, Columbus-centric ‘They/Them/Us’ makes local premiere
But the hard work paid off, especially in recent weeks, as West watched the film with audiences at film festivals in Austin, Seattle and Cleveland. The poignant and moving climax of the film, in particular, tends to elicit emotional reactions from viewers. “Seeing other people and hearing the sniffles…it was impactful to feel that other people were feeling it,” West said, adding that the recent response in a packed Cleveland theater had him wondering if ” we should distribute tissues before the screening”.
Depicting what West described as “the tapestry of a lifetime”, the final section of “Linoleum” was the trickiest to pull off. “We spent more than half the time doing our editing on the last 20 minutes of the film, just because it’s so delicate, so careful. Everything has to be wrapped in this emotional way,” he said. .
When the film debuted at SXSW in Austin, a special moment came full circle for West, and it had nothing to do with the press junkets or the critics’ reviews or the glitzy photo shoots alongside Gaffigan, Seehorn and others.
“This kid came up to me after the screening, and he was really nervous, like, shaking with nervousness. And he was like, ‘If I could have just a moment of your time, Mr. West. I really liked your movie, and I really want to make movies. Can you give me some advice?’ And my mind was kind of blown,” said West, who again took inspiration from Aronofsky, encouraging the young fan and forwarding his email. “It just came back, and I felt really good about it.”