Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Your short film, Relics, is currently working its way through the SoCal film festival circuit. For our readers who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the premise of the film?
Drew Cash: Relics tells the story of a young man named Jimmy, working a blue-collar job at a small factory in Louisville, Kentucky. Jimmy, who I portray in the film, has taken over as the foreman of this little factory from his father Ray. Ray has been grooming Jimmy to take the reigns for a number of years, and even though Ray has stepped down as the boss, being of a dutiful and proud generation, he is not ready to walk away from the factory that has been his defining purpose for most of his adult life.
The central conflict of the film arises when Ray’s mind begins to slip and the early stages of dementia start to impact his ability to work. Another worker at the factory gets hurt as a result of this, and now Jimmy is faced with gut-wrenching task of firing his own father, the man who gave him everything, including his livelihood and the very authority with which to carry out this deed.
A “relic” by definition is something that is no longer used for the purpose of which it was intended. This, of course, refers directly to Ray’s plight and his inevitable feelings about his own self-worth, but I also wanted to explore a setting that reflects a dying way of life in a post-industrial “any-town” USA. I view the short film format, when it’s not being used as proof-of-concept for a longer piece, as a poem of sorts, and in this case I like to think of it as a folk song about the time a guy had to fire his own dad. And, hopefully, it comes through like a scratchy voice singing along to a slightly out-of-tune guitar over a jar of bourbon.
BD: The film is not only an emotional story about a father and son’s relationship, but also a social commentary on Alzheimer’s and its impact on individuals and their families. What inspired you to tell this story and to bring attention to this medical condition that affects so many?
DC: As with many artistic reflections on a particular subject matter, I do have my own personal experience with Alzheimer’s/Dementia to draw upon. My grandmother, who was quite a remarkable woman herself, suffered from a degenerative form of dementia in the final years of her life. Of course, it was a sad time, but I think the lasting impact as I get older is how scary of a notion it is to have your mind slowly slip away from you. I think fear is really at the heart of why this particular subject seems to haunt my psyche and infiltrate its way into my writing. With people living longer these days, Alzheimer’s is a rapidly growing health concern. Between 2000 and 2015, deaths from Alzheimer’s Disease have increased 123 percent. That’s crazy to me. It’s the sixth leading cause of death in the US and kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. So, with these things in mind, and what I saw with my grandmother, it just seems really important for me right now. I can’t get it out of my mind, so I want to explore it artistically and maybe it will resonate with folks dealing with this themselves or shed light on the issue for those who are unaware.
I actually wrote a script specifically about my grandmother before I wrote Relics. She was a high-ranking official in the Red Cross during World War II, serving in both Europe and Japan. She also graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Social Work in the 1930s when not a lot of women, particularly in Kentucky, were going to college. She was kind of a badass, but rarely talked about her experiences. It always makes me a little sad that by the time I was old enough to really appreciate how cool she was and what questions I should be asking her, her mind was pretty gone. So, that script is really the epitome of what I want to explore on this subject, but the scope is just too grand to do on a micro budget. So, I started with something that seemed manageable with Relics.
BD: What can you tell us about the process of working with the cast and crew of the film and the contributions of these individuals?
DC: Though I’ve been acting professionally for some time, this was my first experience directing and fully producing something I’d written. So, it was pretty overwhelming. My girlfriend, Paige Herschell, who’s a wonderful actor, as well, had some experience co-producing a web-series she starred in. She co-produced Relics with me. We raised a little money on indieGoGo, and we went to Kentucky and shot the thing. My Director of Photography was a guy named Max Moore who is super talented and directs music videos for some pretty huge clients like Of Mice & Men, New Found Glory, and Stone Sour. Check him out on YouTube; you won’t be disappointed. He really understood the hand-held, visceral, docu-style aesthetic I was going for, and we developed a shorthand pretty quickly. We also feature some awesome music by a Louisville-based band called Quiet Hollers. These guys are awesome. Find them on Spotify and give them a listen.
As for the cast, I actually wrote the part for the actor who played Ray, Mike Seely. He is an old friend from when I used to live in Louisville, and he actually directed me in a play a number of years ago. He’s in his sixties and also works as a surveyor in Kentucky, but he’s had a sort of career renaissance these past few years with acting roles in what seems like every movie that films in the region. He’s had scenes with Jimmy Caan, John Voight, and Boyd Holbrook of Logan and Narcos. The guy works. It’s awesome. And with good reason; he’s phenomenal. He’s such a rich and soulful person, and every instance of his life experience plays across his face in every frame of the film. There are actors who spend entire careers trying to capture the deep stillness and simplicity that Mike seems to effortlessly exude any time you put the camera on him. He has a real gift. And the third actor in the film is also from my theatre days back in Louisville. I wrote the part of the other factory worker specifically for my friend Andy Pyle. Andy is another one who is such a grounded actor, you never catch him faking a single beat. Andy just has this intensity in his eyes, and he’s also a lot bigger than me physically which I thought was important. I wanted his character to feel imposing, like he could push my character around.
BD: What do you hope that viewers will take away from Relics?
DC: I guess if there’s a moral to this story, it’s one of acceptance. This father and son go through a sort of reversal of roles here, and they have to find a way to come to the other side of that and be okay with it. Whether we want to address it or not, as human beings we’re all headed in one direction, and when we’re faced with the reality of that, especially with someone we love—that shit’s hard. But if we can find some resolve, some acceptance—some peace—I think that’s sort of how you “win” at the human experience. That might be a little heady, but I think that gets at it. It’s about coming to peace with our reality. And it’s also about communication. These two guys are desperately trying to connect with one another, but their own fears, insecurities, pride, and perception of masculinity get in the way. But I think they find their way to an understanding and, hopefully, eventually to some peace with it.
BD: Do you have plans for expanding the Relics story into other projects or entertainment mediums?
DC: I mentioned the script about my grandmother before. That’s in the works, down the road a little bit. But I realized when I wrote Relics that I had two scripts about the experience of Alzeimer’s/Dementia, one dealing the beginning stages and one with the end. So, I came to the realization that maybe a thematic trilogy was in order. I just needed a script about the middle stages, an Act 2 of sorts. So, I decided to write one more. This second short film, currently titled Who You Are To Me, is a standalone story that will feature an all-female cast (Relics is all male.) in which three generations of women deal with the day-in and day-out of living with Alzheimer’s and what that experience looks like. The woman of the middle generation, we’ll call her Mom, is the one afflicted by early on-set Alzheimer’s. So, the “middle” character is literally the one dealing with the disease in this “middle” part of the story. Paige is set to play the daughter, and we hope to get some incredible talent onboard to play Mom and Grandma.
BD: In addition to your work on Relics, you also recently appeared in the TV movie, Runaway Romance. What can you share with us about your experience working on the film?
DC: It was great. That film actually shot in Kentucky, as well. It’s interesting how, being based in Los Angeles, I often find myself heading home to the bluegrass for work. It just sort of makes sense to cast actors who are from the region, because typically things being shot there are utilizing the look and feel of the landscape and its energy. There’s just a certain authenticity you get when you use actors that are actually from there. That movie premiered on UP network in January and also starred the youngest person to win an Oscar, Tatum O’Neal. So, that was really cool. I played a quirky comedic part who starts as a good guy, then turns into kind of a bad guy, then has a nice redemption at the end. It was a really nice arc to play, and I had a lot of fun with it. I believe it aired again on UPtv on Thursday, March 22. They’ve been replaying it every couple weeks or so, so keep an eye out.
BD: Are there any other projects on which you are currently working?
DC: Right now, I’m in the thick of adapting a novel into a screenplay. It happens to be another Kentucky-centric project. It’s a Vietnam War-era novel about a farm girl from Kentucky who finds herself becoming an elite sniper in the jungles of Vietnam. It was actually co-written by my elementary school music teacher. She reached out about trying to pitch it for a film adaptation to people I may know in the business, and I said, “How about I write the adaptation?” She and the other author liked the idea, so I optioned the story and am writing it on spec. I was drawn to the strong female lead and how, as a war story, it seemed to be neither a propaganda piece nor a traditionally political anti-war piece, which are sort of the two types. It’s essentially a coming-of-age story for this young woman, with the tumultuous Vietnam War as a backdrop. Oh, and there’s a love story, which is always a plus.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Relics and your other work?
DC: Relics is still doing festivals right now, so it’s not available online yet. This fall will be a year since we premiered, so we will likely try and get it out online for mass consumption at that time. You can check for updates on Relics and my other work on IMDb, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at the following addresses and handles. Also, please check out how you can participate in your local Walk to End Alzheimer’s at act.alz.org. Paige and I participated in the walk at CBS Redford Studios on behalf of Relics last fall, and it was a lot of fun and raised a ton of money for Alzheimer’s Research. I believe wholeheartedly in the notion of artists as advocates. When people are listening, even it’s just a few, I think we have a responsibility to use that platform for good. So thanks for listening.
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