A group of people decides to pursue an eccentric, idealistic dream, despite a pressing lack of funds and in defiance of the daily grind of external and internal doubts. That’s both the plot and the story behind “Phoenix, Oregon,” a new film from Oregon-based filmmaker Greg Lundgren that screens Thursday at Bayside Bowl in Portland.

The plot of “Phoenix, Oregon” sees a pair of friends (indie stalwarts James LeGros and Jesse Borrego as Bobby and Carlos), who, mired in lousy jobs and midlife malaise, hit upon the seemingly frivolous dream of restoring a decrepit old bowling alley. The story of “Phoenix, Oregon” sees Lundgren and the dedicated true believers at his Joma Films continue their dream of creating truly independent films in a marketplace where heartfelt and thoughtful indie fare has to perpetually fight for air (and box office dollars).

Jesse Borrego and James LeGros as Carlos and Bobby in “Phoenix, Oregon.” Courtesy of Joma Films

“There’s a metaphor there, for sure,” Lundgren said, laughing. “Bobby and Carlos are two sides of the same coin. It’s easy to feel like (depressed would-be cartoonist) Bobby – that you’re never going to pull this off, so why try? But there’s also Carlos (a chef who dreams of making the alley’s kitchen home to the greatest pizza in the world), who’s so positive, saying, ‘This is gonna work, gonna pan out.’ I guess both are about trying to do something ridiculous, but wanting to, in the process, make something great, too.”

“Phoenix, Oregon,” apart from LeGros (“Drugstore Cowboy,” “Living In Oblivion”) and Borrego (“Lone Star,” “Fear The Walking Dead”), boasts Lundgren’s most high-profile cast to date, including “House’s” Lisa Edelstein, Diedrich Bader (“Office Space,” “Better Things”) and the always interesting Kevin Corrigan (“The Departed,” “Walking and Talking”). Lundgren’s independent visions have attracted a few recognizable faces in the past (Steve Zahn in the 2009 baseball drama “Calvin Marshall,” Shirley Knight and Tom Skerritt in 2013’s “Redwood Highway”), but this is an all-star cast, if all-star means people you recognize but might not be able to name, and who are drawn to do good work in independent films.

“It really does get desperate sometimes,” Lundgren said. “On an indie, the clock is ticking, there’s no money, agents won’t call you back – that’s the norm. But we’ve learned, put our best foot forward, and convinced ourselves we’re not nuts to try. What we’ve learned is that good actors like good parts. It’s not always about the money. We keep creative control, and actors are really interested in working with other interesting actors. That’s the caliber of actor we want to work with.”

Diedrich Bader is one of a few recognizable faces in “Phoenix, Oregon.”

But reeling in a few recognizable faces is one thing for a small-budgeted film like “Phoenix, Oregon.” Getting the film seen (and ideally earning enough money to make the next) is another entirely. Enter Bayside Bowl, just one of the small, independent, and obviously eclectic venues Lundgren has chosen to host a screening of his new movie. Taking “Phoenix, Oregon” on a 70-city tour across the country, Lundgren says this barnstorming approach to marketing his film is a way to overcome his lack of studio backing (with its attendant TV ads, Comic-Con appearances, press junkets, tie-in Burger King cups, and so forth). “We’re looking at getting the movie into film festivals, but it’s hard to sustain the momentum from those,” said Lundgren, who’ll be at the Bayside screening alongside co-producers Louis Rodriguez, and Lundgren’s wife and producing partner, Annie. “Too often the festivals are kind of spread out over a full calendar year. So early on, we thought the film turned out well, we were all pretty proud of it, so let’s control our own destiny, see who’ll book us, and see what happens instead of waiting for the ideal situation.”

Enter Bayside, where the bowling-based “Phoenix, Oregon” will play its first actual bowling alley. Naturally, Bayside Bowl, with its rooftop film series, is also a sought-after movie and concert venue as well, so it’s not like Lundgren and company will be crammed in front of a TV monitor while the bowling alley clatter and clang echoes around them. Said Lundgren, “Indie cinemas and venues like Bayside are the best on this tour. Popping up in smaller towns, with a passionate film lover curating screenings for a loyal audience – our antennae are always up for those kinds of places. The fact that it’s a bowling alley too is just sort of a neat coincidence.”

So this Thursday, why not indulge your indie film and indie bowling alley love simultaneously by checking out this intriguing visitor all the way from that place with the other Portland. The film’s rated R, and the 8:30 p.m. rooftop screening is free. For more information or to RSVP, check out the “Phoenix, Oregon” website at phoenixoregonmovie.com.

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his wife and cat.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: