After living through school, a career, maybe a family and the usual experiences, then what? The gray hair and hunched posture may take over, but in the case of three older men living in a small port town, their eyes hold a look of relentless determination.
With a bit of wisecracking comedy and some failed attempts to understand the complexities of the Internet, the men (portrayed by Bob Burkholder, Britt Crosley and David VanderWal) forge ahead in their old age to explore relationships and change in “Old Goats,” an Elliott Bay Productions and ShadowCatcher Entertainment film.
The three men are first-time feature-film actors from the area. Their characters, whom share their names, meet and soon find themselves pushing and helping each other get every ounce left out of life.
Despite attending their senior fitness classes, arguing over how to talk to women and dealing with unreached dreams like sailing to Hawaii, the men eventually learn that their lives are meant to be exactly as they are.
“Old Goats,” which opens at the SIFF Cinema in the Uptown on Aug. 17, has received Best of the Fest awards at the Seattle, Palm Springs and Sun Valley International Film Festivals. It also won the Special Jury Prize for Narrative Features at the San Jose Cinequest Film Festival. The film is a mix of the documentary and fictional film styles.
David Skinner, a Madison Park resident and ShadowCatcher Entertainment’s executive producer, said the film production company looks for character-driven stories that challenge the audience to think beyond the confines of the theater. ShadowCatcher Entertainment works with comedies, dramedies and period pieces, but they all involve people and changes.
“We found something in ‘Old Goats’ that we’ve never seen before,” Skinner said. “It had an honesty and sincerity and truth about it that we really loved.”
A relatable film
ShadowCatcher Entertainment started in 1993, when Skinner and a few other men wanted to produce unique films, Skinner explained. Although he is the only original founder left, he said the company still looks for film ideas here in Seattle and around the world to help produce. They have even produced on Broadway, released books and helped with distribution campaigns.
“Because there are so many movies now, little films like ‘Old Goats’ can fall between the cracks,” Skinner said. “You have to realize the world is changing in the digital age and then try to take advantage of the change, but you still have to have a good story to start.”
Having produced several successful movies, including “Smoke Signals” and “Outsourced,” ShadowCatcher Entertainment took on the distribution and production help for “Old Goats.” Skinner said the company was drawn to the refreshing and honest approach of Taylor Guterson, the 31-year-old director/writer of “Old Goats” and son of “Snow Falling on Cedars” author David Guterson.
Skinner and his associates came across the film through a mutual friend at the Seattle International Film Festival, where the film took Best of the Fest in 2011.
Guterson did not try to top big-name directors’ or writers’ styles in the film; his work is original, sophisticated and vulnerable, Skinner said.
He said he also embraces an age interesting for both young and older audiences.
“Just because you are 60, 70 or 80 doesn’t mean you are packing it in,” Skinner said. “I think people will recognize intuitively that these three men in the film are living through different lives that speak to different parts of who they are.”
So far, audiences have said the piece is a remarkable work, Skinner said. As the film grows nationally from its Seattle roots, it will find a niche that appreciates the style and characters, he said.
“Whether it is the parent or grandchild, anybody — we know that there is an audience for well-told stories for people of this age,” Skinner said.
Funded mostly by personal investments from Guterson and his partner, Jonathan Boyer, the small-budget movie was filmed similar to a documentary, but with a mix of fiction.
It took 56 days of shooting on Bainbridge Island, in Seattle and in West Seattle, and a year of editing and coordinating the schedules of Guterson, Boyer and the three actors, but Guterson said he enjoyed the different filming style. The small group handled everything from props to lighting to video, so they did come across difficulties beyond financing, he said.
“Old Goats” is Guterson’s first feature film, but he has production experience from running Elliott Bay Productions, a video- and film-production company for mostly nonprofit and corporate organizations.
“You make it by basically learning how to do everything yourself,” Guterson explained. “Either you do it, or it doesn’t get done.”
‘True to life’
Guterson said Burkholder, Crosley and VanderWal are unique and slightly inappropriate just as much on camera as they are off. The movie is meant to exemplify the struggle elderly people face if they get stuck in their routine later in life.
Guterson, who lives in Issaquah, said the three actors often listened to what he wanted in a particular scene but would then talk naturally and put the script in their own words to show the reality of their individual lives.
“It is extremely difficult for the characters to change who they are at their age,” he said. “To some extent, they are not quite satisfied with something in their lives, but in the end, they aren’t really capable of changing that. It is true to life.”
For Guterson, the movie took on a more solemn feel at points, he said.
“It is slightly depressing because you just see these men sort of spinning their wheels,” he said. “I think it’s really more of a window of perception in that old age is not as different as your life now. The film shows you still have fun and anxieties.”