HAWAII INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
Alison Eastwood directed Kevin Bacon on the set of "Rails and Ties."
Eastwood engineers dramatic film about the ‘Ties’ that bind family
When an actor decides to jump in back of the camera instead of in front, watch out! Either egos are running amuck or it seems like a logical progression. In a season when Ben Affleck is getting a pile of attention for directing a blustery thriller, actress Alison Eastwood has weighed in with a quiet psychological study of a family pulled apart and reassembled.
"Rails and Ties" premiered at the Hawaii International Film Festival this week, and Eastwood blew into town still smoking from those runaway SoCal fires. In case you're wondering, yes, her dad also acts and directs. But "Rails and Ties" is Alison's baby, and the drama features trains in a big -- and small -- way.
"Trains are a big part of the story, and the writer (Micky Levy) came up with the original idea," explained Eastwood. "But it's not a train movie! The main character is an engineer, and he loves trains, and when his job shuts down, he works on model trains in his house, and the model trains are a way of visualizing the growing connection between him, his wife and the boy who moves in with them."
Model train enthusiasts are notorious for taking over entire basements, and Eastwood said the production crew had to build a layout from scratch, including breakaway sections and a pop-out lake for filming purposes. "One scene called for part of it to be demolished, and the crew got to keep rebuilding it."
And if you're wondering whether Lionel Trains owner Neil Young was involved somehow, "We used a Buffalo Springfield song in the movie," said Eastwood. "Does that count?"
Again, this isn't a train movie. "What drew me to the project is the way the people come together and have a connection under strange circumstances. It's their journey."
As an actor -- "I'm certainly open to more acting roles, particularly since I have a mortgage!" -- Eastwood said she "was on the same page" as the cast, which includes Kevin Bacon and Marcia Gay Harden.
"Some new directors come off a music video and commercial background, and try to think of flashy ways to show off," mused Eastwood. "But I really wanted to tell a small and intimate story, and I wanted to be quiet -- simple and straightforward, almost minimal, not visually manipulative at all. No attention to HOW the film is made; the audience shouldn't be aware of the technique. It's a fly-on-the-wall technique."
Eastwood even lays off the jarringly dramatic close-ups, preferring a "simple and natural" approach that's cool and at arm's length. According to Variety, Eastwood's directorial debut is a "crisp, efficient job of setting the wheels in motion."
"I'm not going to lay it on thick," said Eastwood. "I had smart, instinctual actors and it was a community approach. Some directors have great visions and are technically inclined, but don't talk to the actors.
"I don't work that way. We had read-throughs and I wanted the actors' input. The story and the characters are what matter. This is the story of people leading derailed lives -- oops, there's another train analogy!"