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2009, 69m, comedy
Don is in a predicament. His car won't start and it's absolutely essential that he get across Los Angeles for a birthday party. But it's not just any birthday party. This is a party for Alli, the girl he's had a crush on for months now. After a series of failed attempts to get a ride, he's forced to ask his crazy neighbor for her car and despite the awkwardness, she is willing to help by offering him the only thing her ex-boyfriend didn't take - an embarrassingly pink beach cruiser with a basket on the front. With that Don sets off on his journey across a city where everyone drives.
Produced by: Jeffrey W. Ruggles, Donald Ian Black, Andrew DeYoung, Jerren Lauder
Cast: Donald Ian Black, Kelsea Burke, Courtney Kelly, Jessica Brooke, Hugh Mun
10 questions with Bicycle Lane director, Jeffrey Ruggles at the half-way mark.
Thursday, March 3rd, 2016
1What was the initial seed that made you want to make Bicycle Lane? I had been working on a pretty soul sucking reality show and when it finished I decided to take a month long trip to Europe. I went with some buds and we didn't plan ANYTHING, just decided to "wing it." Terrible idea. It was the height of the pound and the Euro and within two weeks I'd spent all my loot and had to come home. But the day I left, I was in Rome, waiting for the bus and I was watching all these people ride their bikes through rush hour traffic. It struck me as absolute insanity, but obviously a necessity as well. But it looked like a real bummer.
When I got home, LA was having a heatwave. 100+ degrees every day. It was misery. So one day, I was sitting in my room, trying not to move and sweating profusely and those bike riders in Rome came back to me: "What if you had to ride your bike across the city in this type of weather." And that's basically how the idea for Bicycle Lane came about.
2How ridiculous is your cinematographer's name (Mario Panangiotopoulos)? How did you two meet, how did you two work together and how often did his last name slow down production? (I'm actually good buddies with Mario.) Don't even get my started. I met Mario (I actually met him as MarioS but was later told that the "s" was silent. Didn't matter to me. I still call him Marios) on a reality show and we hit it off right away.
When I conceived this idea and it seemed like I was actually going to make this movie, he was the first dude I called. I wanted the movie to have a real documentary like feel, so I knew he was the man for the job. I had this idea that I wanted to shoot everything in these long, fluid takes to give the images a bit more life and naturalness. On the first day, Mario was pretty adamant about getting all the correct coverage. So we did a few set ups and whatnot. The next scene comes and we're behind schedule, so we have a few less set ups. But the end of the shoot, Marios is like "We don't need any coverage. I got this!" Then he'd absolutely shoot the shit out of a scene and I could just let it play in realtime.
By the end he was even talking about doing a "one take film". He wanted to make Gravity before Gravity! Love that dude.
3Don Black did a great job as your lead. What was it about him that made you cast him? So I wrote all the parts in Bicycle Lane for people that I already knew. The name of the game was practicality and showcasing the talents of all these awesome people I ready know. The only parts we cast for were Don's mean roommate, the guy and girl from the convenience store and the bicycle cop.
I had worked with Don for little while and knew that he'd done some acting. He was so funny all the time and we clicked artistically from the get go. So, after I wrote the script, I pitched it to him and he said "Sure. I'll do it." I don't think he ever really expected me to get this thing done, so when I finally called him and told him the movie was a go, he was SUPER stoked.
The truth of the matter is, this movie wouldn't be what it is without Don. He was abele to direct himself and ad lib so many funny things and just build off the script in a really amazing way. He's an incredibly smart and funny actor. I was really lucky to work with him.
4What was the size of your crew and how many days did it take you to shoot Bicycle Lane? We shot Bicycle Lane in 5 days! 5 DAYS! It was insanity. Totally guerrilla style, running through the streets of LA. It was amazing. We had one day of pick ups where we got all the bike riding shots, but the principal photography was 5 days. Still can't believe we pulled it off.
And the crew was small. Probably only 5-7 people on set at all time. It was pretty much necessary to be able to make a movie like this.
5Can you share a war story from the shoot? One of my favorite scenes in the film, is the scene where Don goes to his friends house to use her pool. When he finds out she's not home, he jumps the fence only to find out that it's not her house at all.
I love this scene because it was one of the last things we shot. In the script, the location was actually supposed to be a big apartment complex and there was a big interaction with some tenants and I think Don even accidentally punches a kid or something. It was REAL ambitious for what we were doing. Anyway, we couldn't get complex or actors, so I put a blast out asking for a pool. The only person that replied was this very nice girl that I sort of casually knew. Her parents had a house in the deep valley and we could use their pool.
So the entire production loads into a couple cars and we head to the house. Once we get there, we look around and everything seems to be in working order. Only, we don't have a scene! So the entire crew gets together and brainstorms some ideas and that's the scene in the movie. The guy that finds Don in the pool was actually our PA. I just love that scene, the way it's shot and acted. It really epitomizes the spirit of the film.
6What scene turned out better than you ever imagined it would? Honestly, I think they all turned out better than I imagined. HAHA. But if I had to pick one, I'd say it's that long follow shot at the end of the film. I won't give too much away as it's a major plot point, but Marios, Don and I were able to orchestrate this really great tracking shot where Don walks through this entire house looking for this girl named Alli.
I wanted it to be an end of the night sort of thing, so the only people that are left are the people that live there, people that are too high/drunk to leave, and squatters that are finishing off the keg. I think we really captured that with this long, single take. I'm proud of that one.
7You live in L.A. do you think aspiring filmmakers need to be there to get into the industry? No. 1000x no.
I'm actually glad I moved to LA and worked in reality TV because it really taught me about story telling (A story/B story, beginning/middle/end, etc) and how the business works, but I by no means thing that's necessary.
We're lucky to live a world where cameras and editing software are really accessible. Then you have great sites like this that will play your film once it's finished. So I think if you're going to make movies, MAKE MOVIES. Simply as that.
8What's the film that made you want to become a filmmaker? It's cliche to say, but it has to be Pulp Fiction. I'll never forget that experience. I went to the dollar theatre with my dad and stepmom and I remember leaving the theatre thinking "What the fuck was that?" I didn't like that movie at all. But it challenged everything I knew about what a movie was or could be. Three days later, I was still thinking about it and I thought "That's what I want to do. I want to make movies that go against the grain."
After that I was an open book.
9Name three movies, that if you see on TV, no matter what part of the movie it is, that you MUST finish watching to the end? Goodfellas. (Every time it's on, I tell myself I'm going to watch 10 minutes and 2 hours later I'm still watching it.)
The other two sort of fall in line with previous question. They're movies that I saw on TV when I was young, movies that came on just flipping channels, that I ended up staying up and watching all the way through.
The first was Blue by Krzysztof Kieślowski. Back when Bravo played art films, I'd watch whatever was on. A lot of them were over my head at the time, but they were still part of my education in film. One night, I couldn't sleep, so I turned on the TV. The first image I saw was this woman dragging her knuckles across a rock wall. My stomach turned. What was this? I ended up watching the whole thing and going to be at 3am. It was live changing. I remember thinking "This movie has no plot, no story. It's so slow." I watched it again last year and realized that it's completely conventional!
The other movie is The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie by Luis Bunuel. Same story. Late night. Can't sleep. Turn the TV on and there's a dinner part on a stage. So weird and funny and still is to this day. An absolute favorite.
10What's next? HOPEFULLY getting a new feature off the ground this year. It's very different in tone from Bicycle Lane, but I'm excited to get back out there and make some movies!
About the Interviewer: Ben Hicks
Ben Hicks is a writer/director and co-founder of Fandependent Films. Ben is currently working on making Fandependent Films awesome and is finishing up his first feature film entitled Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time which was selected for the 2017 IFP Narrative Lab.
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