Right now our youngest daughter, Emily, and her fiancé, Marshall, are living downstairs in our basement. When they asked if friends of theirs from Oregon could stay for a few days, I thought, “Why not? In a nest no longer empty, what difference is a couple more?” So 23-year-old Sam Kuhn, a filmmaker, and his adorable, impeccably mannered girlfriend took up temporary residence while searching for an affordable apartment in the City.
Emily and Marshall first met Sam when Marshall played an open mic night in Salem, Oregon during Em’s senior year at Willamette University. Sam liked Marshall’s music and approached him about using it as a soundtrack for one of his films. This could be great news for Marshall and Emily’s future. I saw an example of Sam’s work Sunday night, and he is really good.
Finding Truelove premiered this past April at the Hot Docs Film Festival in Toronto. You can’t see it in theaters yet and I believe the Internet version we saw is password protected, but take my word and get tickets the minute you can. (You can see a trailer on vimeo.com here.) It’s a “buddy road trip” movie, made in conjunction with two of Sam’s cousins and one of their college roommates. Sam said the total budget was $814 plus hot dogs. (I think the reason they separated the hot dog expense from the total figure was due to the number of hot dogs consumed in the short trip. From seeing those boys eat franks in just about every other scene, I can tell you it will be a long time before I’ll have a hot dog. I had indigestion just from watching.)
So here’s your preview in a nutshell: Three buddies find a 1990 Chico High yearbook while bargain shopping at a Seattle “Value Village” thrift store. (For those unfamiliar with the chain, think Salvation Army on steroids.) They flip through pages of black and white mug shots, poking fun at the overblown '80s hairstyles, trading opinions as to popularity vs. nerd status, and then focus on one particular student: Timothy Truelove. (They didn’t change his name for the film. That’s it. Seriously…)
When Sam and his buddies find out they can purchase Chico High reunion tickets through Google Checkout, they decide to crash the party and pile into a 1988 shuttle bus for a West Coast road trip. Sam makes you feel like you’re right in the van along for the ride. You meet hitchhikers, café owners, antique dealers and eventually the eclectic Chico High Class of 1990 — from the popular kids to the alternative outsiders — all of whom had to sign off for him to use them in his movie. Staring into Sam’s blinding bright camera light in a dark bar, one attendee says, “You’re from Portland. Of course you are…”
Actually, Sam is originally from Bainbridge Island, Washington, but spent enough time in Salem, Oregon to catch Portland’s artistic quirky nature. He sat upstairs while we watched Finding Truelove down in the basement. He said he would happily answer any questions we might have, but that he has watched his own film enough by now to take a pass.
When it was over, I found him stretched out on a couch checking Facebook posts. As good luck would have it, my Branson’s yearbook happened to be stowed in a chest right beside him, and I couldn’t resist the temptation to pull it out and show him my Class of 1977 senior page.
With 88 students in the graduating class, our school was so small that each senior had an entire page to themselves. Mine had drawings of boats (…a continued theme for me), a postcard of a German hedgehog doll swilling red wine (…ditto), pictures of my two best friends (…one of whom I still make a point to see as often as possible, the other in Oregon, I think, making me ponder road trip possibilities) and a picture of my “jock” boyfriend who broke my heart in college when he found his future wife. (At the time I was a total mess, but for history’s sake I’m glad I didn’t cut his cheating black and white face from my page.)
Sam was good-natured about my road trip down Memory Lane. When I complimented him on his talent, he thanked me and said he was surprised by the interest the industry is taking in the film. I told him I thought it was due to the “Everyman” quality — the commonality between who we were long ago on the pages of a high school yearbook and whom we become as adults, and which ones of us have the guts to show up at a class reunion.
Sam tells this universal story with heart and humor. I envy the members of the Chico High Class of 1990 who jumped on the film crew’s van that night, drinking champagne straight from the bottle on the back seat.
Thanks for the preview, Sam. It was my pleasure to give you and Susan temporary lodgings. I hope you remember me when you assemble your post-Oscar bash guest list, and look forward to toasting your success! (Maybe from a glass, though, not a bottle…)