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Arts Rancho Santa Fe Lead Story

Part-time O’side resident’s film hits the big screens

OCEANSIDE — As far as productions go, filmmaker Rocky Powell has worked with budgets twice as large and shooting schedules lasting only days long. 

He’s filmed presidents, worked with well-known actors and has directed numerous nationally-aired TV commercials for high-profile companies.

But for Powell, 58, the experience of making his first feature film absolutely ranks at the top, he said.

The part-time Oceanside resident, who splits his time residing in Texas with his wife, grew up in Pasadena, but spent much of his youth in Oceanside during the summers and on weekends.

On Friday, his film, “Language of a Broken Heart,” opens in Oceanside at the Regal Cinemas Stadium 16; though he won’t be there to see it, he’ll be in Washington, D.C. filming a public service announcement with Chelsea Clinton.

Still, having the film open in the city that is his second home and is close to his heart, it was “huge” for him, he said. “It means a lot to me to be in that town and have it in the city,” he said.

From a start as a photographer shooting mostly fashion and advertising work, Powell forayed into TV commercials (something he’s done for 20 years now) before beginning work on his first feature film about three years ago.

The project began when a high school friend of Powell’s approached him, asking if he’d direct his son’s script.

The man’s son, Juddy Talt, had graduated from USC, and as an actor, opted to break into the film industry a different way than most other actors.

Instead of lining up for casting calls, Talt wrote a screenplay as a vehicle to star in.

The project they began working on was originally a road trip-style film, but the expenses of such a film extended beyond what they had to work with, and so Talt began work on another screenplay — this one, a romantic comedy about a break up.

Screenwriter, producer and star of “Language of a Broken Heart” Juddy Talt will be in Oceanside Friday when the film opens at the Regal Stadium 16. Courtesy photo
Screenwriter, producer and star of “Language of a Broken Heart” Juddy Talt will be in Oceanside Friday when the film opens at the Regal Stadium 16. Courtesy photo

“Language of a Broken Heart” is about a best-selling romance novelist (Talt) who, after the collapse of his engagement, returns home to live with his mother, played by Julie White (Transformers) and who works on renewing his relationships with the help of a quirky, bookseller played by Kate French (The L Word).

“It’s about losing love and never really being able to find it because most of the time you’re looking too hard,” Powell said.

“I think all of us can say we’ve been in a sub-par relationship at some point in our lives, and this guy just keeps on repeating the mistakes until he finally, hopefully, makes the right decisions,” Powell said.

Some of the pre-production of the film was done at Powell’s Oceanside home, where in between storyboarding the film and writing, they’d do some surfing, drink some beers and then do so more writing and more storyboarding.

“We came out to really get away from our lives at home so we could really concentrate on finishing up the film before we started shooting,” Powell said.

They wrapped the production in 2011 and took it to festivals where it received the award for best picture in the California Independent Film Festival and the audience award at the San Luis Obispo Film Festival.

Since being released in March, the film has been held over in Chicago, Denver, New York, Dallas, and Austin, and has grossed $34,945, according to Box Office Mojo.

Powell has admitted to reading only one review since the film was released — the review, he said, was “glowing” about the film. But from then on, he’s decided that he won’t read any more critics’ reviews, because he said, it doesn’t matter.

“You have to believe in yourself and go forward, and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something; that’s the main thing to believe. If we’d done that, this film never would have gotten made, as well as, I’m sure, thousands of other independent films.”

They’ve even earned a short, what he called a “fair” review (which he didn’t read), in the New York Times, which is unheard of, Powell said.

With a miniscule budget, (Powell said “Silver Linings Playbook” was made for $21 million, and “you could make 45 of our films within that budget) they’ve had to hit the streets and take to social media to help market the film.

Talt went so far as to stand in theaters where the film was being shown and directed people to go and see their film instead of the one they were going to see, and “it worked,” Powell said.

It’s something they’ve done in every single market they’ve been in, he added.

Talt will also be on hand for Friday’s 7:20 p.m. screening in Oceanside.

Powell had always planned on directing a feature film at some point, but the materials that came across his desk never really grabbed him, including, he said, a story about a blind field goal kicker. “I just didn’t see how I was going to direct that one and make that one work very well.”

As for the future, Powell and Talt are collaborating on another film to begin production in the fall, a departure from the romantic comedy genre, this one, he said, was a little darker, and more dramatic.

MPAA rating: R for some sexual humor.

Running time: 1 hour 38 minutes

Playing: Regal Oceanside Stadium 16


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