Filmmaker Rick Castañeda’s first feature, 2013’s “Cement Suitcase,” played film festivals up and down the West Coast, but it wasn’t selected for the big one, the Seattle International Film Festival.
“With ‘Cement Suitcase’ we did the Tacoma Film Festival, Ellensburg, Dances With Films, but we didn’t play SIFF,” the 40-year-old Granger native said. “So that’s very exciting.”
The film, which was ready for release a year ago but shelved because of the pandemic, focuses on a lonely data entry clerk in the cubicles-and-coffee culture of the early 21st century corporate world. His life gets weird when he discovers a secret door in the office that leads to an underground, ultracompetitive folder-
filing tournament. It’s a bit of whimsy in the mold of Charlie Kaufman, Castañeda’s filmmaking hero.
“If we can imagine a way out of our mundane life, that becomes our new life,” Castañeda said. “Our new magical life.”
In a way that’s something Castañeda’s local productions — “Cement Suitcase” was also filmed largely in the Yakima Valley — has offered to dozens of people here. While key cast and crew come with him from Los Angeles, where he relocated after leaving Granger for film school at the University of Southern California, other spots are filled by regular folk from the Valley. They work on a film for a couple of weeks before returning to their everyday lives as local businesspeople or teachers or whatever.
“We couldn’t have done it without them,” he said.
And it wasn’t just the people working on the film. A film production has a lot of moving parts, and a lot of little things can go wrong and gum up the process. But whenever that happened during the filming of “All Sorts,” someone from Yakima would come through with a solution, Castañeda said.
“We had a saying: ‘Yakima provides,’” he said.
Local filming locations included Toppenish Middle School, Franklin Park, the Miner’s Drive-In parking lot and a building near the Yakima Airport owned by Yakima businessman Danny Day. In Los Angeles, renting that building to shoot would have cost the film’s entire budget, Castañeda said. But because Yakima provides, it was affordable.
“Part of that deal is they were excited we were filming a movie,” he said.
That kind of excitement is part of what draws Castañeda back to the Valley for projects like these. And, though he doesn’t have a date yet, he plans to screen the film here sometime after its SIFF premiere.
It’s already a year later than he anticipated releasing “All Sorts,” but the events that caused the delay may actually help the film’s appeal.
“We’re all working from home,” he said. “It might be a good movie to come out now, while there’s nostalgia for the office.”