Monday, June 25, 2012

Hollywood to Dollywood: Why The Lane Twins Are This Summer's Real Movie Heroes

Allow me to ask a few questions about this summer's movies.

Did The Avengers leave you thinking about your goals and dreams and how you might achieve them? Did Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter have you questioning your relationship to your parents and what's getting in the way of those relationships? Did Prometheus stimulate any thoughts whatsoever other than how a young woman could possibly perform a C-section on herself and then run around a space ship?

I'd venture to say the answer to all of the above is 'no.' Why? Because, in my view, none of the people involved in the making of these films took risks. They relied upon the safety of known comic books and a popular novel. They rebooted a dormant but once-lucrative sci-fi franchise. They didn't challenge themselves or their audiences. And for their efforts, they're floating on inner tubes across vast oceans of money, a margarita in each hand.

Meanwhile, there's Hollywood to Dollywood.

The independent documentary recently had two showings at Frameline, San Francisco's annual LGBT film festival, following more than 50 festival showings around the world. (The Huffington Post has a detailed story about the film worth reading.) 
Hollywood to Dollywood is about two twin brothers, Gary and Larry Lane, both gay, from my home state of North Carolina. The Lane twins, who currently live in Los Angeles, wrote a screenplay entitled Full Circle, which includes a part they wrote with Dolly Parton in mind. They love Dolly (who doesn't?), and they really want her to be in their film.

So how would these two young up-and-coming actors/models/screenwriters get someone of Dolly's stature to even consider their screenplay? How would they fast-forward past all the non-responses and rejections that inevitably await the vast majority of scripts by unknown screenwriters?

They made a movie about it.

Venturing Into Tornado Winds and Flood Waters

More specifically, the Lane twins made a charming, funny, suspenseful, and unexpectedly touching documentary about their cross-country trip from Hollywood to Dolly's theme park in Tennessee. Their goal: To hand-deliver their script to Parton during the 25th anniversary of Dollywood, a time when they knew exactly where she would be and when.

The Lane twins on the road to Dollywood
These guys rented an RV (which they nicknamed Jolene), assembled a tiny crew, and made the trek--venturing into tornado conditions and flood waters along the way--without any assurance they'd actually make contact with Parton.

Sure, they had some reasonable hopes, as we all know Dolly is a genuine and benevolent person. (By comparison, can you imagine making a trek cross-country in hopes of getting Patti LuPone to read your script?) But the Lane twins took a big risk--something that so many in Hollywood and on Broadway today wouldn't dream of doing. They invested time and money and emotion into filming a story the ending of which they couldn't possibly know.

That alone earns my heartfelt admiration. But the movie also spoke to me on many other levels. As someone who has also toiled on a script (a play) for four years, the Lane twins' guerilla script-submission-tactic is inspiring. I'm already scheming about the unsuspecting hands I'm going to thrust my manuscript into, though I hope I can do it with as much Southern charm and style as the Lane twins.

And their tactic, from a marketing perspective, is absolutely genius. You want to make sure Dolly is aware of how badly you want her to be in your movie? Make a movie about the trip you took to hand your script to her--a documentary, by the way, which has won lots of festival awards.

Leslie Jordan
I don't want to imply Hollywood to Dollywood is simply some shameless exercise in self-promotion. Yes, it's a story about ambition and living your dreams, however corny that may sound. But what gives the film such heart is that, ultimately, it's the story of two gay men who want to fully 'be seen' and accepted by their mother, whose religious beliefs has yet to allow that to happen.

All This, and Leslie Jordan, Too

That's the quiet sadness that runs throughout the film, though there are many comic high points--including cameos by the likes of Will & Grace's Leslie Jordan, the diminutive Southern comic actor.

The Lane twins come across as sweet, adorable, handsome, funny, intelligent, genuine Southern men of whom anyone would be proud. I'm happy to report that Nick and I had a chance to talk to them after a Frameline screening, and in 'real life' they're exactly as they are in the film. One minute of talking to them and you feel as if you've known them for years--or wish you had.

I could go on and on, but I'll close where I started: with The Avengers, Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and the woman who gave herself a C-section in Prometheus. They're Hollywood's safe, risk-free action heroes. But for me, the real super heroes of the summer movie season, of the entire year in fact, are the Lane twins. And if you're at all interested in seeing their story, please buy the Hollywood to Dollywood DVD. It's only $20. You'll be supporting some terrific young Southerners. Ten percent of the sales go to Dolly's Imagination Library, which provides books to children. And most of all, it's a memorable movie. Besides, $20 is less than you paid for two tickets (plus popcorn) to see The Avengers--a movie you've probably already forgotten by now.

Postscript: Here's a recent Virgin America commercial featuring the Lane twins you may enjoy.

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  1. I am going to find this to watch it. It sounds very intriguing and right up my alley!

    Anyone who is willing to travel across the country in an RV with a relative deserves at least that. :-)

    1. JuJu, it's well worth the $20 to buy their DVD. Loved, loved, loved this movie. And I love these guys. They feel like my little brothers and I barely know them.

  2. Jim,

    I am always looking for a good LGBT themed film (sadly there are too few) to watch. I am going to buy this and hope that it is as good as this post. :)

    1. I hope you and Paul enjoy it, Bill. Certainly I bet you will relate to being a young man from N.C. (Goldsboro, in their case) with a dream for something better.

  3. Sounds interesting. I may have to check it out. Thanks for the recommendation.

    1. You're welcome Claudia. I hope you'll consider buying the DVD. It's an inspiring story I plan to watch again, and again. Plus the two twins are SO cute and handsome and sweet.

  4. Wow- I'm so glad you wrote this because I might not have ever known about them! I can't wait to get the DVD and see their story. Sounds like they would be inspirations to all of us in so many ways. Love the picture you posted too - looks like they are having the time of their lives!

    1. Mimi, you're so sweet, glad you're my sis! I do hope you get the DVD. You will love these guys and want to adopt them. Within a minute of talking to them I wanted to adopt them myself!

    2. I have to admit - their story really tugs at my heart. I hope their mother comes around - what joy they are and she is missing it. I would be happy to fill her shoes anytime!
      And glad I am your sis too! How lucky for me!

  5. As an aside, I loved the line and imagery: "And for their efforts, they're floating on inner tubes across vast oceans of money, a margarita in each hand." Two-handed margarita drinking. A new sport.

    The film and filmmakers sound wonderful, and, yes, of course it is a form of self-promotion. I am beginning to understand that artists (in order to be successful) need to be self-promoters.

    Twenty dollars is about what I spend on coffee in a week ... so for the same price I can support books for kids and a couple of adorable Southerners. Money well spent.

  6. I am so glad that you wrote about the twins. I saw an interview with them when the film was first released. I knew it would never be shown in my area, so watched for it on Amazon and eventually gave up hope of seeing it. Just sent in an order and can't wait to see it. This is going to be a double- your- pleasure film with the twins - both super cute and adorable.

    1. Hi Paul, I'm glad I could help you find their movie. Obviously I'm a big fan of the film and plan to watch it multiple times. I hope you enjoy it too!