Set in the autonomous, rebel State of Jefferson in 2029, this futuristic thriller stars Sam Daly (The Office, Daly Show) as cyborg drifter Dylan Grant – a failed military experiment. He’s 100% human but is assisted by his artificial intelligence implant, “Clyde” (voiced by Andrew Wilson). Aimless and broke, Dylan urges Clyde to help him find work and a new beginning on the reckless but “free” Jefferson coast.
After saving a mysterious woman’s life outside a night club, Dylan is sucked into her dark world becoming her lover and accomplice. Going against Clyde’s wishes, Dylan and Lisa (Leilani Sarelle) plot to negotiate a financial settlement with her maniacal ex-husband Sterling (Simon Templeman) – a tech tycoon who’s developing unregulated warfare technologies and testing (on unsuspecting subjects) the hypnotic, addictive properties of the black root plant he grows on his private compound. If only Dylan can keep Lisa and Sterling from killing each other, he may just walk away with a small fortune and a new life – with or without Clyde’s help.
This suspenseful and character-driven, slow-burn thriller is written and directed by Gary Lundgren (CALVIN MARSHALL, REDWOOD HIGHWAY), and was beautifully shot on the majestic Oregon coast by award-winning cinematographer Patrick Neary. Michelle Lombardo and Danforth Comins co-star.
In the fall of 2013, I wrote the first draft of BLACK ROAD while teaching a screenwriting course in the evenings. The idea was that such an arrangement might improve both disciplines. The writing turned out to be as difficult as ever, and the students’ frustration over their career of choice was especially palpable that term. I imagined their filmmaking future looming ahead like an endless, black road. They were upset about the economy and the job market – and they craved assurance that they would land on their feet.
The film industry has always been a tough nut to crack, but this seemed like a new strain of disillusionment. As their professor, I felt powerless in my ability to encourage them about an industry that had imploded. But then I discovered from my academic colleagues that the problem was much more widespread and not restricted to filmmaking or the arts. We’re talking about a generation that experienced the trauma of 9/11 as children. This and other injustices had seemed to give them an innate sense of mistrust when it came to the adults running our country, let alone the film industry.
It was this kind of wariness that my story’s main character gradually inhabited in my writing process. Dylan was already a cast-off drifter, but now he was charged with something more potent than apathy. He was anxious and bursting with pent-up anger. And he was determined to finally seize control and make something of his life.
After World War II, film noir came along with its jaded protagonists trying to survive in a dark world. BLACK ROAD was inspired by a similar kind of desperation. For too many in this country, the American dream is an oasis that fades away as we race towards it. As an ex-military cyborg, Dylan has all the potential in the world, but he ends up an outcast scrambling to survive in a new society that over-promises and under-delivers.
BLACK ROAD is a character driven mash up of classical noir conventions in a futuristic land of opportunity. If the libertarians ever get a petri dish like the State of Jefferson, I have to wonder if their ideological fantasies will inadvertently create a kind of paradise for some and new lows of evil and abuse for others. Like founding father James Madison once said, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”
BLACK ROAD is also a genre film that is meant to be as entertaining as it is unsettling. And I hope that in its own small way it shows that an ideal government would go out of its way to meet its people in the trenches and work tirelessly to foster financial stability and meaningful work in their communities.