“Camino” is a film about two guys, a cooler, and some kidneys.
It was also written, filmed and produced in East Texas by East Texans.
The idea came to writer John Patrick Hughes as a project in his class at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches. When Hughes presented the dark comedy/murder mystery script, classmate Justin Herring’s interest was peaked. However, it would be a year before he would act on that interest.
In that time, Hughes and Herring would become close friends.
“We would walk the same way back toward the film department after class,” Herring said. “At first, we awkwardly walked kind of close to each other, but then we eventually became really good friends.”
Then, when deciding what to create for his thesis for his master’s degree in filmmaking, Herring remembered his interest in the script his friend had written. He decided it would be a great fit to direct, and “Camino” was on its way to the silver screen.
Scenes and characters in the independent film are inspired by and loosely based on some of the things Hughes experienced as a kid growing up in Lufkin. For Hughes, there were moments during which it was strange to see an actor playing a role based on a friend. He was struck by how similarly the actor portrayed his old friend.
To get the film off the ground, funding was needed. Kickstarter, an online crowdfunding site, was used to generate funds, and a few local investors also backed Hughes and Herring.
Besides the money, there was one thing the movie absolutely had to have: an El Camino. The whole plot revolved around it.
“[My dad] had a friend in, I think, Arkansas who had [an El Camino] on his used car lot who agreed to sell it to us for dirt cheap, and we had to get it transferred in from Arkansas,” Hughes said.
Hughes is very grateful for all of the support and interest shown by the people of East Texas, SFA, and both his and Herring’s parents.
“I think what me and Justin ended up coming to terms with was like a lot of people have great ideas or ambitions but are just too afraid to ask for stuff,” Hughes said. “We were very pleased to find that if you just asked people for things, they’d almost always just give it to you. People want to help out. You just kind of have to give people the opportunity to help out.”
“Camino” was shot at locations in Lufkin and Nacogdoches, in fields, restaurants, a food truck, an apartment complex and a house.
“I think a lot of people wanted to be supportive because, you know, hometown helping out people from the hometown,” Hughes said. “We got so many things we didn’t deserve or almost sometimes we didn’t need. People gave and gave, and people supported and supported. It was very nice of them, for sure.”
At this point, the movie had the funding, the car and the locations. Now, it needed the talent. For the project, Hughes and Herring brought in local talent that would play as extras. The lead roles were played by Cody Davids, Matthew James, Bonnie Gayle, Jordan Michael Brinkman, and Reynolds Washam. Simon Phillips, who plays one of the film’s villains, was brought in from the U.K.
As Phillips was only in town for 10 days, they had to shoot all of his scenes in that window.
“We did not have the budget for [Phillips] to leave and come back if we didn’t finish shooting with him,” Herring said.
But that wasn’t the only hitch in production.
The summer of 2015 had the heaviest rains East Texas had seen in a long time.
“When shooting a movie, you generally shoot outside scenes first. That way, if it rains, you can go to an inside location and shoot inside scenes,” Hughes said. “But it rained the first 12 days, and everything we were shooting was outdoors. So there were definitely some days me and Justin had to wait a long time.”
“We were on a really tight schedule. We had to make our day every day,” Herring said. “We couldn’t afford to go back and shoot anything again.”
Hughes recalled a day the entire crew was on location in a pasture where they had built the driving range featured in “Camino.” There was a really long dirt road to get there, and Hughes said it “monsooned out of nowhere.”
“We had the whole crew sort of running in and out of this tiny one-bedroom house that was on the property trying to get all the equipment and the whole crew inside,” Hughes said. “Then it had rained so bad that we couldn’t get the El Camino or the equipment truck out. We had to just like abandon everything and leave and hope that it would be dry enough to go back and get it the next day. So that was probably the hardest day. A bunch of really sad, wet people trapped in a one-bedroom house for like four hours until it stopped raining.”
They had set up a couple of pop-up tents to protect equipment and, during the storm, one tent blew away. The equipment was drenched. They found the tent later in a pond about 200 feet away, destroyed.
That storm and 10 days worth of rain pushed back scenes that needed Phillips and had to be finished before he left.
“We ended up working 16-18 hours a day with him the last two days he was in,” Herring said. “It was a really ridiculous and kind of terrible experience.”
Even with the tight schedule and occasional difficulty, both Herring and Hughes said they were pleased with how “Camino” turned out, which won the People’s Choice Award when it was premiered at the Lone Star Film Festival in November of 2016.
If they could change anything, they both said they would only give themselves more time to complete some scenes they said felt rushed or underdeveloped.
Fans and newcomers to the movie will have a chance to see it at the Nacogdoches Film Festival on Feb. 24th at 9 p.m. followed by a question and answer session with Hughes, Herring, and lead actors Cody Davids and Matthew James.
Both Hughes and Herring are excited to be a part of the 2017 festival, which marks its 6th anniversary.
“It’s exciting,” Herring said. “I went to the first Nac Film Festival. It was me and the girl running the DVD player. It was super tiny, and no one was there. To see it grow and have feature films come in that people are interested in is great. I’m just excited to hopefully help the festival.”
“I think [being in the festival] just falls in line with the whole process of making the movie,” Hughes said. “Our hometown, East Texas, like Lufkin, Nacogdoches, like that area of the world supported us so much in the making of the movie. It’s just another super nice thing of them to then invite us to their film festival to celebrate the movie we made with the help they gave us. Because, in the end, it’s the good people of Lufkin and Nacogdoches that have worked the hardest to make it happen.”
To watch the trailer for “Camino” and to stay up to date on the independent film’s progress, follow on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CaminoMovie.
For more information on Nacogdoches Film Festival, visit nacogdochesfilmfestival.org/tickets.