Turner Ross: It's movie magic that made the friendship in Gasoline Rainbow look real

The Ross brothers, Turner Ross and Bill Ross IV, speak about their latest directorial Gasoline Rainbow, the story behind choosing the title, and more
Turner Ross: It's movie magic that made the friendship in Gasoline Rainbow look real

American actor Sanford Meisner once said, "Acting is behaving truthfully under imaginary circumstances." Now, think of a scenario in which actors are provided with the opportunity to behave truthfully under real circumstances instead of imaginary ones. This has always been the case with The Ross Brothers, Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross, who have mostly adopted a vérité style of filmmaking. Their latest, Gasoline Rainbow, which just dropped on Mubi, is their first pure fiction film, but even for it, they've gone for an observational and unscripted style of direction. The filmmakers are aware that this style of filmmaking is not for all, and that's why, when asked about the mixed reception for Gasoline Rainbow, they confidently say, "There are people who never get our films, which is fine. There are plenty of films out there for them."

The film revolves around a group of teens from Oregon who embark on an adventure to the Pacific Coast by road. The title is intended to have a profound meaning, translating to the rainbow being on gasoline. Turner says that although they knew what their film and its intention were, they went through a ridiculous process to finalise the title. "We got towards the tail end and didn't know what to call it," he says as Bill adds, "We would wake in the middle of the night, write a title down, look at it the next morning, and then reject it. We had probably 500 titles like that." Turner further says that "Gasoline Rainbow" is not a popularly used phrase back in Oregon, but it just popped up and felt apt for the film. "The title means finding poetry in unlikely places, beauty in ugly things, or hope in toxic situations."

For all their films, the Ross brothers have mostly adopted a documentary style in terms of the visuals. Even most of Gasoline Rainbow feels like a social media vlog by a Gen-Z kid. Bill says that some of the footage was actually shot on the kids' cell phones. "We didn't want it to be too pretty. We wanted the audience to feel like they were along for the ride as well." The film's dialogues also seemed to be penned in a way that could provide an up-close and personal experience for the viewers. "All the dialogues are from the actors. We had nothing written down as far as dialogue goes," Bill reveals. On why they went with real conversations instead of made-up ones, he explains, "I'm going to fail if I try to assume what two teenage girls are going to talk about on a road trip. So we really were striving to set up scenarios so that they could just be themselves and have those conversations."

When it comes to casting, the two girls and the three boys who form the film's main leads are all debutants. Turner shares that they did not always imagine having five leads. "They were already thick as thieves and had their own energy. And when we put them together, they clicked." The entire film relies heavily upon the camaraderie the five teens share, and Turner says that it was "movie magic" that made the friendship look so real, as the teenagers didn't know each other until they started filming for Gasoline Rainbow.

Although pure fiction, Gasoline Rainbow is quite unscripted, as the actors are introduced to the twists and turns when the camera is rolling. For example, in the scene in which the tyres of their van get stolen, they actually didn't know that they would lose them. "We set up that situation, and they didn't know that it was going to happen. And that's the case for about everything that they encountered," says Bill. Turner adds, "We tried to surprise them continuously. So I mean, the whole production was very risky because of all these variables." While Bill assures that the safety of the kids was never compromised, Turner admits, "No doubt, it's an insane way to make a film."

While Turner is aware that their film is not for everyone, he says that they will still continue working the same way for one reason. "We work this way because we don't want to have a preconceived notion of what it should be, or predetermine what the actors would say, how they would feel, what they would do, in any given situation. We want to allow them to express themselves and respond to the fictional situations in their own unique way." Circling back to the limited audience appeal of such films, Turner signs off by saying, "We made the film we wanted to make, and everybody is entitled to their opinions."

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