In 1999, visual artist Paul Whitehead saw that the simple act of enjoying a moment, rather than possessing it, can be all it takes to break through creative blocks. This insight made him want to create a story, so he wrote a script about letting go.
Washed Away takes place on a windswept beach, with a frustrated young painter struggling with a creative dry spell. There he is distracted by a Mysterious Artist, who may or may not be the spirit of Picasso. When I read the story, I asked right away if I could direct it. I could already see the whole thing in my head. Paul was thrilled that his idea would see light at last, and here we are. When I brought lead actor Darren Jacobs on board, the work he did to plumb the depths of the Painter’s emotional state impressed me greatly. It was his idea to cast the man’s struggle in the context of grief. He’s on that beach not only because he needs to create, but because he’s in pain and missing someone dear to him.
We brought together a committed, bare-bones crew and shot on a beach near Ventura, California, over two days in January. The winter was stormy, and the beach where we obtained a permit to shoot got in fact washed away. The second one flooded on the first day of production, and we were evacuated by park rangers. We got to the third beach hours late, just as the storm clouds broke, and we captured our beautiful, moody footage showing the journey of a man pushed to let go of his grief. Our experience making this film reflected his journey, because creating requires persistence, adaptability, and the willingness to let go. We had to set aside the notion that our plan would unfold how we thought it should unfold. We had to embrace change, and see the possibility being shown to us instead. I’d like to think both our process and the Painter’s journey came out better for what we went through.
Picasso’s “Guernica,” the piece recreated by the Mysterious Artist in the sand, depicts the horrors of war and fascism, and urges us to remember them. It’s a lesson we seem to be on the verge of forgetting. That this is the piece that Paul chose to create, only to have the tide wash it away, is significant. I love not only the message that all art is ephemeral (a recurring theme in Paul’s work), but also that a piece about loss helps our Painter through his grief. He leaves the beach as the only one to remember Picasso’s message, just as our Mysterious Artist, played by Paul himself, returns to start all over again. As long as people forget, the cycle will repeat. But artists will be there to remind us of our folly, even if those warnings only get swept out to sea. To me, this is the nature of being a creator. We make things of beauty and they may only reach one person. But our joy is in the act of creating so we just keep going.
How far will you go to make what you need to make and say what you need to say? What will you let stand in your way? These are the questions I hope people will ask after seeing this movie.
- Directed & Produced by Heidi Hornbacher
- Written by Paul Whitehead
- Executive Producer – Sepand Samzedeh
- Executive Producer – We Make Movies, Inc.
- Associate Producer – Erik Nielsen
- Cinematographer and Colorist – Kyle Bart Reid
- Edited by Cyndi Trissel
- Story Consultant – Crash Buist
- First AC & Drone Cinematography by Erik Nielsen
- Sound Recording & Design by Matt Dorsey
- Production Assistance by Persephone Godwin
- The Painter – Darren Jacobs
- Picasso – Paul Whitehead
- Composer – Jeff Rona
Produced by Volante Films in association with Supposable Productions
Copyright ©2019 Volante Films
- Carlo Cavagna
- Daniel Shapiro
- Delila Vallot
- City of Oxnard
- Tyson Butzke and Katherine Wilson of California State Parks
- California Film Commission
This would not have been possible without the support of our donors:
- Caroline Amiguet
- Monia Ayachi
- Laurie Butlet
- Carlo Cavagna
- Kevin DeVito
- Adam Fisk
- Prisca Gloor
- Persephone Godwin
- Frank Grabowski
- Roland Koncan
- Elisa Martin
- Courtney McAlister
- Lies Melkert
- Alison Moser
- Ruth Nielsen
- Terri Pendleton
- Neal Polister
- Spencer Westbrook
- Nicole Williams
- Total Run Time (TRT): 8 minutes 32 seconds
- Apect Ratio: 2:35 Letterboxed
- HD 1920×1080, 23.976fps
- Exhibition formats: ProRes 4444, stereo sound
- Production: USA, 2019
Inspired by Paul’s story, Heidi couldn’t wait to bring this to life.
Paul wrote Washed Away to comment on the ephemeral nature of life and the value of letting go. He also stars as Picasso.
Accomplished British actor, Darren stars as The Painter
Jeff lends his amazing talent to our stark, lovely score.
Kyle Bart Reid
Kyle executed a blend of handheld shots that capture the moodiness of the story.