A former Britpop rocker who now works on a farm gets caught driving drunk and faces deportation after living in Los Angeles for many years. His efforts to stay in the U.S. force him to confront the past and current demons in his life.
LACHLAN MacALDONICH is former Britpop rocker who has settled into a comfortably numb existence in farm country just outside Los Angeles. By day, he works on an organic farm and travels regularly to the city’s farmers’ markets to sell produce. By night, he retreats to his crummy apartment to record "Flame-Outs," his podcast that recounts the tragic deaths of great musicians. The only spark in his humdrum existence is BEAU, a lovely struggling actress and amateur chef who frequents the Silver Lake farmers’ market.
One night, Lachlan gets pulled over for a DUI, a charge that dredges up his past drug offense and threatens him with deportation. Lachlan’s only hope of staying in the U.S. is proving that his removal would cause “extreme hardship” to a U.S. citizen spouse or relative. Lachlan contacts his estranged ex-wife and daughter, raising past demons that he must finally confront.
CALIFORNIA SOLO is a human story about post-fame life and personal redemption.
The core of CALIFORNIA SOLO is the character of Lachlan MacAldonich. I wrote Lachlan specifically for Robert Carlyle, an actor whom I’ve always admired immensely, and I thought it would be interesting to put him at the center of an American indie film. It was easy to write the character with Carlyle’s voice in my head, and I wrote the first draft of this script furiously, in just 16 days. I have heard two different acronyms for the word fear. One is “Face Everything and Recover;” the other is “F*** Everything and Run.” For me, CALIFORNIA SOLO is about Lachlan’s taking the first tentative and difficult steps towards recovering the life he ran away from years ago.
I had written the script for Robert Carlyle, but I didn’t know how we would get it to him. When we managed to reach him, he signed on to play Lachlan within a few days. It turns out he had known a lot of these ex-rocker types from Britpop’s heyday–he had hung out with them in London, and at the Hacienda nightclub in Manchester. He was part of their glory days, but also familiar with some of the demons that assailed them afterward. Many of the shirts Robert wears in the film are his own from the days when “Trainspotting” first came out. ‘90s Britpop is the music scene that Lachlan and his fictional former band, The Cranks, grew up and flourished in, and I listened to Britpop non-stop while writing CALIFORNIA SOLO. I was first introduced to it while visiting friends in Ireland during college. Britpop is, I think, an underappreciated movement. The songs have aged well – simple rock with an epic feel and great emotion. But besides Oasis and maybe the Verve, Britpop didn’t hit it quite as big in the US as it did back in the UK, which is why an organic farm in Southern California is a perfect place for Lachlan to hide out from his past.
The other thread that inspired me to make this film was realizing how immigration laws can wreak havoc on the lives of longtime residents of the United States, even legal residents. The deeper I dug into U.S. immigration law, the more disturbing I found the bureaucracy. Immigration lawyers told me about immigrants with green cards who become separated from their children and grandchildren because of an unexpected legal turn; and of endless and unpredictable twists of fate along the path to removal from the country. There is heartbreak in the tension between the straightforward nature of Lachlan’s DUI and the extent and unpredictability of its consequences.
We shot CALIFORNIA SOLO in 21 days in and around Los Angeles. Many of the locations were within walking distance from my home. After making my first feature, BLUE STATE, in Winnipeg, I wanted to shoot in a place I knew well, and to portray Los Angeles in a light we don’t always see in movies, from the beautiful farms that surround the city, to the farmers markets that pop up each weekend, to the hipster neighborhoods and clubs. The cinematographer James Laxton and I strove to give Los Angeles a cooler, earthier, less plastic treatment than it often gets in films.
My inspirations for performance and visual style were character-driven films like The Verdict, Tender Mercies, The Visitor, and the films of Mike Leigh. These movies manage to tell a dramatic story through nuance and attention to human detail – to let the actors be the main event – and that’s what I’ve tried to accomplish in CALIFORNIA SOLO.
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