The struggle of SXSW films to find distribution seems a common thread, with several standouts still seeking deals. Jim Cummings recently headed to the south of France to shop Thunder Road for international distributors in The Director’s Fortnight section of the Cannes Film Festival.
Cummings parlayed the response to his buzzy short at Sundance in 2016 into a Kickstarter campaign to fully fund the feature version of Thunder Road. The result produced a singular performance, which wowed this year’s SXSW jury.
Cummings’ intimate and excruciating take on a broken man is a hard watch, yet riveting and morbidly hilarious at times. The brilliance of his performance was evident from the opening shot when his character, Officer Jim Arnaud rambles and raves at his mother’s funeral in what could be described as the best/worst eulogy you’ve ever witnessed. It is fascinating to witness the quiet desperation of a man succumbing to the worst hits that life can at throw him, yet steadfastly unable to express his apparent rage and deterioration.
Cummings’ performance demands us to connect with a less-than-sympathetic man-child, and I must confess sympathizing for a police officer dripping with white privilege and entitlement can be hard to stomach. In the end, the character of Arnaud is so disarming that you can’t help but root for him to grow up and get his life.
Cummings is writing his own playbook on how he got the film acquired, handling the sale of the feature without an agency. “Many of the agencies were helpful, but we just wanted to do it ourselves.” Cummings said in a Twitter Q&A recently.
Days before his trip to Cannes he left advice on his timeline, which offered a tip which echoed Aronofsky’s keynote advice: “Don’t wait for someone to make your movie.” For these three award winners, that belief has paid off with great films.
Below is the original short of Thunder Road that debuted in 2016: