Independent filmmakers often have to double up on jobs. This might explain why writer-director Chris Ordal couldn't meet me one-on-one for an interview at the Planet Sub on 75th. Although he's a University of Kansas alumnus, he's currently living in Los Angeles and needed to a ride from Lawrence, Kan.. He'd been staying with Brad Roszell, who drove him to our meeting. Roszell edited Ordal's latest movie, and the two also shared producing duties with Brendon Glad.
If their operation is modest, the two have a lot to be proud of. Earthwork stars Oscar-nominee John Hawkes (Winter's Bone) as Kansas-based crop artist Stan Herd. For decades, Herd has been making artwork by growing crops into pictures that can only be seen from above. He can reproduce van Gogh's "Sunflowers," or poke fun at pollution in "The Ottawa Beanfield Cola War."
Herd knew the filmmakers, who convinced him to let them make a film about an incident that happened to him in 1993. Landing Hawkes, who also had a major role in em>Deadwood, was another boon to the fledgling filmmakers.
"John took a huge risk in doing the film in the first place," Roszell says. "One, he'd never really carried an entire film on his own. He was on every single, freaking page of that script. And Chris, no offense to him, was a nobody, a first-time feature maker, and didn't have much to show John.
"We were a young producing team without a lot of experience. He came all the way from L.A. He drove. Some days I said, 'Let's just take his keys, so he can't leave.'"
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