I made a big effort to reject the normalcy of my Midwestern, Catholic school upbringing when I moved to Los Angeles in 2012 without much to my name except a film degree. Once there, I got a job at a pizza place to cover rent while I scoured for production work. At night, I went out and immersed myself in the DIY punk scene.
My first time at “The Smell” — the infamous warehouse venue tucked into an alley downtown — I met a cute 2nd generation Latino boy with an ‘X’ tattoo on his chest. I crashed into him in the mosh pit, and we shared some whiskey. He put his name in my flip-phone. Within a week or so I was sleeping in his bed, and he was introducing me to his friends. They owned an auto shop in Highland Park. Oh yeah, and they also stole cars.
It was an intoxicating and somewhat dangerous time in my life. I didn’t understand yet that I was queer, and I was incapable of processing all the ways growing up in an intolerant environment had stunted my growth. Losing myself amongst these charismatic new faces was an escape.
“Desolation Road” came about a year or so later in an attempt to make sense of it all. It’s a screenplay of enormous power and beauty — an impossible love story that burns through its 90 pages. Its two leads, Ally and Mateo, hold a mirror up to an intersection of cultures, as well as the gritty textures of LA that I was swimming in at the time.
After developing the story for a few years, I decided to shoot a teaser. In it the two leads are brought to life beautifully by Page Ruth and Jose Velazquez. Full of bold colors and deep shadows, the visual design roots the project firmly in contemporary art.
Inspired by the classic Americana of films like “Bonnie & Clyde,” but filtered through the prism of modern day Los Angeles, “Desolation Road” is unflinching. The coming of age storyline explores two of the most horrible forms of violence — oppression at the hand of a father and patricide.
Let’s fast forward to the present. Things change. I’m an established commercial director. I’m no longer afraid of my sexuality. I’ve travelled the world and am fluent in Spanish. I’m applying for an advertising school in Sweden. My sense of self-worth is completely different, as well as my future prospects.
When I think about the character of Ally — on the run, caught-up in her romance with Mateo — I feel a stab of white-hot emotion. Her hindered potential is going toe-to-toe with her trauma. She musters all of her strength and stands, hoping to tear through it. Amidst all of this, her heart beats wildly for someone who is wrong for her.
There are so many things that I want to say to her.
— John Vallance (Nautico)
Talent: Page Ruth / Jose Velazquez
Writers: Nautico / David Chang
Executive Producers: Adam Bagger / Mike Repasch
Producers: Jeff Lamb / David Chang / Matt Hardman
Director of Photography: Chris Westlund
Stills Photographer: David Chang
Production Designer: Zebah Pinkham
Wardrobe Stylist: Shari Bisnaught
Casting Director: Rachel Imbriglio
Editor: David Chang
Colorists: Matthew Schwab / Chris Westlund
Title Designer: Nick D’Amico
Sound: Samual Casas