DAWN PATROL: From Script to Screen at AFF

In 2008, a script written by Rachel Long and Brian Pittman, a writing team from California, was submitted to the Austin Film Festival. Then titled Stranded, it went on to be a Latitude Finalist in competition that year. Oscar-Nominee Daniel Petrie Jr. (Beverly Hills Cop) and Rick Dugdale met the pair, and soon after the script was picked up by Petrie and Dugdale's Enderby Entertainment. 

"We didn’t really know what to expect," Long told us, "Immediately just being at the Driskill Bar, and everyone was accessible and nice and enthusiastic, you know. So here you are, just a finalist in contest...who knows whats going to happen? And just to be surrounded by such positive people about the industry, I was hopeful that it could happen." 

The "it" she's referring to? Pittman went on to explain that all subsequent meetings and work as screenwriters has been because of the Austin Film Festival and also their relationship with Petrie. Their A Haunting at Silver Falls recently finished shooting in Oregon. CBS Films bought their script Incarnate and Millennium Films picked up their spy script The Civilian. 

Things appear to be moving at quite the clip for those two, and to finally see Dawn Patrol on the screen is the culmination of years of work. Though not uncharacteristic for a film to spend a long time in development, "It was a slow process, patient process, everyone being very passionate about Dawn Patrol," said Pittman. And as they neared actual production, things sped up enormously. 

Through many meetings and notes sessions, even a 12-hour day with Petrie at his house, both Long and Pittman appreciated the hands-on approach of their mentor, Petrie. "In any sort of collaboration there was never a moment where he was telling us something that we needed to do. He was presenting it in a way that it seemed essential to do and I think that that is really incredible about him," said Long.  

Actor Scott Eastwood (left) with director Daniel Petrie Jr. 

We also got a chance to sit down with Petrie and he talked about the significance of when the movie was set. "2008 was a time of great, almost overwhelming despair in the United States as people had been encouraged to take on mortgages and remodel their homes," he said. "I remember because I had a place near that beach and sign after sign after sign [reading] ‘For Sale,' 'Foreclosure’ and it felt like, to these hard working people, that the dream is over. The promise that America makes that you’re going to be better off than the last generation has been broken. And that was deeply unsettling in the nation’s psyche."

Though the movie features the lives of a surfing family, it is not a surfing movie. "I think the lens through surfing and access to the beach is very apt and appropriate and we probably couldn’t find a cleaner one," Pittman told us. He's a surfer himself and while the sport and lifestyle seem like a permanent vacation, he and Long aimed to look deeper. "We went behind that, man. Let’s look at the other side: what do people have to give up to keep that?" he said. 

And it was through the family dynamics, and Petrie as director, that actor Jeff Fahey came on board. "That, for me, was the important thing," Fahey said, "the family structure. However disconnected, dysfunctional, however he [Fahey's character] was aware of it that’s what was the discovery for me." Fahey has an impressive list of credits, but you might recognize him most recently for his roles as Frank Lapidus in Lost or Under the Dome as Duke. Years ago he was in a movie with Petrie's dad, also a director, and had hoped to work with Petrie. "It was a lunch meeting, and I said I’m in," Fahey said, "and bang we were shooting."

We got a chance to see Dawn Patrol last week at it's world premiere at AFF and expect a lot more from this writing team in the future with their many projects in the works. Also, be sure to keep an eye out for the film coming up. We'll post some updates about when and where it will be released when we have them. 

Dawn Patrol stars Scott Eastwood, Jeff Fahey, Rita Wilson, Kim Matula and Chris Brochu.