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Directors who work with Jeff Bridges and Justin Timberlake don’t normally know where McAllen is. Michael Meredith does. But then again, he’s not like most directors.
Meredith is a Texas-bred writer/director who — despite moving on to the bustling film industry of New York — stills holds an appreciation for the Lone Star State, where he went to college and got to know well while on his way to visit his mother in San Miguel Del Allende, Mexico.
He loves it so much that is has what could be considered a supporting role in his movie, Open Road, which opens in limited release today. It will show five times a day for at least the next week at Carmike in Edinburg, one of only fourteen cities in the country to be getting the movie this weekend.
In the movie, minor league baseball player Carlton Garret (played by Timberlake) takes a road trip to find his estranged father (Bridges) after his mother falls ill in Houston.
Filmed in 26 days, the movie was filmed on a tight schedule at locations across the country, from Memphis to the Whataburger field in Corpus Christi.
Meredith, who attended the University of Texas at Austin in the era that produced fellow directors like Robert Rodriguez, spoke with Festiva via phone recently about how he dealt with a grueling film schedule and to give advice for budding filmmakers.
How will people here relate to Open Road?
It’s definitely set locally, so I think people in Texas in part might relate to that. But it’s also a family story. … It’s a real reconciliation story. Me and a lot of my friends went through that as kids. I think people can really relate to that.
How was it filming a movie in 26 days?
The pace was insanely quick. We were up against the writer strike at the time. We had limited resources. You really lose the opportunity to relax on the set and try things that aren’t in the script. But it also lets you take risks that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to.
Would you recommend that budding filmmakers get their start on fast-paced, independent movies like this?
It’s not something I’d really recommend but it’s a necessary evil of breaking in. But lots of wonderful things come from (working on an indie movie). You’re kind of forced to be really creative and get results you otherwise wouldn’t have with a huge budget. But there are pros and cons to both.
You started off in theater while attending UT, but made the switch to film. How did that background help you?
I think that exposure to playwrights and the mix of classics really helped me learn to become a writer. Ten years later, I’m able to write my own scripts. So many people try to break in trying to just be directors. If you can do both, you might increase your chances a bit.
What was it like working with Justin Timberlake?
It was great. When I finished the script, the first character I wanted to cast was Kyle (Bridges). I don’t write with actors in mind. … I also had a real demanding role to film with Carlton because physically we had to buy him as Jeff’s son and a baseball player, but he also had to be a talented actor because Jeff is such a pro. I didn’t want to put someone in who didn’t have the acting chops. Once we all sat down and met, I realized they had the right chemistry. He was great and really set aside his otherwise busy life. He has a lot of stuff going on, but focused on the script and the filmmaking.