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The Reeler Blog

'It's A Hard Film to Do': Pray Talks Big Rig

As promised, like, two weeks ago, I wanted to share an update from filmmaker Doug Pray on the progress of his upcoming truck-driver documentary Big Rig. This is the project he had alluded to during his appearance at RESfest 2005; on his recent trip back to New York for a sneak preview of his graffiti doc Infamy, he told The Reeler the film is just about in the can and off to festivals.

"That was another film where I thought, 'Yeah, we're going to do this happy, upbeat film about chrome culture all about trucks and big rigs and '70s culture,' " he said. "Oh my God. It was so heavy and so depressing out there. But it really is where the pedal hits the metal in the American economy."

Pray spent roughly two months total on the road with his subjects, traveling 25,000 miles through 45 states with at least 50 truck drivers. He shot dozens of interviews in their homes and in their vehicles, at truck stops and rest stops, some lasting a few minutes, many lasting hours. "It's a hard film to do," Pray said. "Just editorially, it's been a hard film to put together. But I'm really, really excited about it. It's just hard because there are so many different characters, and you want them all in there. But at the same time you want it to be geographically correct. I want the audience to go on the same ride I went on -- except that ride took 40 days. And the movie's 90 minutes."

He added that his approach to making Big Rig was not dissimilar to that of Infamy, in which he kept a minimal crew and just rolled tape. "I would ride in the passenger seat and they would just talk," he said. "It's the same thing, though -- you know how I was telling you how much graffiti writers love to talk and want to talk? Truck drivers -- it's unbelievable. They just literally go on for hours. They'll talk about anything. They're just so happy they have somebody to listen. It's a lonely job."

Don't get the wrong idea: Pray meant that admiringly and sympathetically, noting that the culture of truck drivers is as microcosmic of working-class America as any cohort he could have (or has) profiled.

"It's all about this country and the issues they face," he said. "And I'm beginning to think that with all my movies I'm beginning to find a common theme: They're all totally independent. All the truckers I interviewed are independent truckers. They all left their hometowns, they all just went out and are doing their own thing, and they're probably trying to get away from something. Something good or bad, but they're fascinating people. They really are."

Pray has ambitions to premiere Big Rig at some festival out West next January, where two of his three previous feature docs -- Hype! and Scratch -- bowed in 1996 and 2001, respectively. Consider my fingers crossed.

Posted at October 18, 2006 4:26 PM

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