Anodyne tells a timeless apocalyptic love story through glossy black and white camerawork and a haunting original score.
This short experimental film is the spontaneous and collaborative effort of a group of artist friends in Bisbee, Arizona. Originally conceptualized as a music video by Ryan O’Rourke and Tiffany Alexander, under Puspa Lohmeyer’s direction Anodyne quickly grew into much more. Although no one involved had prior experience in filmmaking, collective unbridled enthusiasm and an uncanny, unexplained coordination of schedules allowed filming to begin promptly. It was filmed by Puspa with a single camera over the course of four nights, and scored by Ryan O’Rourke.
Each character in the film is an extension of the person playing the role. Puspa only asked cast members to make their character strange and eccentric. Already an ensemble of interesting characters in real life, they easily assembled costumes from their personal closets and summoned on-screen personas from the depths of their psyches.
Everything used in the film was provided for by the cast or borrowed locally. Locations in the historic Lowell District of Bisbee, a ruinous midcentury time capsule, and the infamous border town Naco were utilized and some scenes were filmed in the homes of the cast.
The romantic old Hollywood lighting was made possible by Dan Simonis and Michael Page, who rescued a treasure trove of 1940s lighting equipment from the dump. Left behind after Arizona’s western film heyday, the equipment was restored and given a second life by the team. Puspa borrowed gloves and generators to operate the equipment and did the lighting for the film herself. Shooting at night with these historic lights gave the film its glamorous and foreboding feel.
Ryan O’Rourke wrote most of the music before viewing any footage and based it on Puspa’s descriptions of each scene’s mood. Using 80s synthesizers, he created an eerie soundscape that plays perfectly out of place in Puspa’s polished universe.
The end result is a dark yet funny film evocative of many places and eras that could only have been made in one small town by this group of creative individuals.
Director, Cinematographer, and Editor
Puspa is a visual artist based in Bisbee, Arizona and specializes in narrative-driven art and fashion photography. After a brief stint as a photo assistant to established photographers in NYC she enjoyed a meteoric career in commercial photo retouching. In 2015 she committed to art photography full-time. You can find her fine art photography published in the pages of Territory Magazine and exhibited at The Tucson Museum of Art. Anodyne is her first foray into filmmaking.
“I love glamour, eccentric characters, weirdness and romance. I hope this film entertains you. I hope it’s pleasing to the eye. Most of all, I hope it makes you feel.”
Ryan O’Rourke records music under the alias MANN/QUIN. His music has been licensed by Quicksilver and is also featured in Showtime's critically acclaimed series Homeland, National Geographic's Mountain Movers, Fox's The Finder, and more.
“Composing the score of Anodyne was an exciting project. I’ve been a musician for over 20 years, but this is the first time I’ve written music for someone else’s project, a task that was as rewarding as it was challenging.
“I wrote most music before seeing any of Puspa’s footage. Although I had a sense of what the scenes and sets would look like, I primarily worked around loose conversations with Puspa. She would describe a scene and the of mood the music should convey. I’d then sit down in the studio and try to create a soundscape that fit the scenes she described.
“To create the score, I mostly relied on the Yamaha DX-7 and PSR-36, both used by most New Wave and Top 40s groups during the 80s and early 90s. I wanted the music to juxtapose Puspa’s polished, black-and-white, neo-noir style with music that sounded slightly out of place and time.”
The Anodyne Soundtrack will be released on Wooden Tooth Records in October 2019.
Tiffany Alexander as “Tiffany Alexander”
Tiffany is originally from metro Detroit, Michigan and moved to Bisbee, Arizona three years ago. After just two days in town she signed a lease and hauled all of their belongings from Detroit to Bisbee. She now performs regularly with Showcase Fatale, a local performing arts troupe and works managing real estate and hospitality. Life in Bisbee has been full of many surprises and collaborating on this short film is high atop her list of favorites. She loves that what started as a small idea quickly snowballed into something much larger thanks to a group of talented people.
Contributions to production: Set design, costume design, styling, props
“I play myself in the film alongside Ryan. We are trying to outrun the apocalypse by turning ourselves into robots! While I enjoyed being in the film, the work behind the scenes really stuck with me. Our production crew was small and I’m so proud of what we were able to pull together in a fairly short amount of time with zero budget. Seeing the sets come together, especially for the lab scene, blew my mind! This is also a tribute to the amazing support of the Bisbee community. Locations and props were generously donated by many people who asked nothing in return.The creative energy and inspiration in Bisbee is endless.”
Ryan O’Rourke as “Ryan O’Rourke”
Ryan, is originally from Detroit, Michigan. His main loves in life are, in order, his dog Olive, 80s New Wave music, sparkling water and coffee, visiting Athens, Greece, and books about World War II. Like Tiffany, Ryan also works in real estate, and he has a decade of experience as a copywriter, builds custom lighting from upcycled antiques, and records music under the alias MANN/QUIN. Ryan also composed the original score for Anodyne.
Contributions to production: Set design, costume design, styling, props, music
“I play myself in the film alongside Tiffany. Working on Anodyne was an experience I know I'll always look back on with fondness. I definitely don’t consider myself an actor, but it was fun to stretch myself and do something that I haven’t done before.”
Dan Simonis as ”Dan Simonis”
Singer/songwriter Dan Simonis slid effortlessly into his Texas oilman alter ego for his role in Anodyne. He often brings this Tom Mix meets John Wayne persona to the stage performing with his band West Texas Millionaires.
Contributions to production: Switchboard scene design, props, locations and vintage movie lights
“No big stretch for me playing this role (I already have the suit!) but it was great fun…. although my horse did steal my best scene.”
Ariel Robinson as “Lodisa Frizzell”
Artist Ariel Robinson was born and raised in Napa, California and arrived in wee Bisbee, Arizona at the age of 19. She fell in love with the town at first sight, believing it to be the Paris of the southwest. There, she has pursued a career in photo retouching and costume making, as well as indulged in the occasional artistic performance to become braver in public.
Contributions to production: Styling, props and poster design
“I created the character of Lodisa by mixing Rita Hayworth with a heap of Klingon machismo and a dash of wide-eyed mannerisms of an 80s scream queen. The name Lodisa Frizell is taken from a real life 19th century pioneer woman. Her spirit animal is the outrageous silver pineapple you’ll see in the film. It’s prickly but sweet, just like her. I also created and composited the final movie poster, taking inspiration from vintage action movie adverts.”
Allen Siu as Chinese Ambassador “Kam Lun”
Allen Siu was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. He lived in New York City for 18 years, where he worked for fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto. He later moved to Moab, Utah for 11 years, where he was a fashion designer for Wabi Sabi, working with recycled materials, and a DJ for KZMU public radio. He now resides in Tucson, Arizona.
“On a recent with Puspa in Bisbee, she approached me with the idea of being a character in a movie project she was working on. The character was to be a Chinese ambassador, which I found appropriate. Kam Lun is my Chinese name, which means Golden Wheel. My life has been a golden journey.”
Thom Oatman as “Professor Van Ravenstein”
Thom is a designer, stylist, and Renaissance man.
Contributions to production: Assistant set stylist and props
“What can I say? I look the part: scholarly and somewhat odd. I compensate for what I don’t know for certain with my mask of clever-looking spectacles.”
Jackie Oatman as “Donatella Martini”
Jackie is a pastry chef and master of dishwashing.
Contributions to production: Character development, props
“I fell into this roll immediately upon hearing Puspa say ‘Cocktail party.’ Someone has to serve drinks in such an atmosphere, after all, and who better to do so than yours truly, who’s been working in hospitality for 20 years? As for all those leftover beverages at the end of your gathering, I’ll clean those up as well, right down the hatch. Saluti!”
Puspa Lohmeyer cameo as “Shirley Crow”
“My character came about suddenly and unexpectedly. After receiving a joke video of Ryan O’Rourke inside a phone booth drunkenly and rather helplessly calling a cab, I was inspired to create a response early next morning while sipping my morning coffee. A quick run to the closet produced a formal nautical dress and strange glasses. Viola! Shirley Crow was born! A slightly neurotic straight shooter just trying her best, she was incorporated into the plot by popular demand. Shirley Crow is the name of Ariel Robinson’s grandmother.”
Trike Turtles as “Turtle”
Trike Turtles was first discovered by art director and talent scout Michael Page. The first time Michael spotted her strolling past his front door, seemingly in a hurry but not getting anywhere fast, the star potential was clear. She has since appeared in numerous films and advertising campaigns.
“This role really made me come out of my shell. The most challenging part was the running scene. It took several takes to get it right. Puspa was very patient and supportive as I slowly worked through that difficult process.”
The Robots as “The Robots”
Ryan and Tiffany had ruminated on the robot costumes for some time before Ryan pitched the idea to Puspa. 600 acorn nuts, several cans of metallic silver spray paint and cardboard later, the robots came into existence. It was truly a labor of robot love.
“If you are reading this then you must be a survivor. You look to the future when you can’t remember the past. We are hoping to find others like ourselves in this brave new world, but have only found a few cockroaches. The sunsets are beautiful, but we are still looking for an oil can.”
Title Treatments, EPK Designer & Turtle Handler
Michael is a designer established in Los Angeles with satellite offices in southeast Arizona and is celebrating 19 years of service for clients across mainstream entertainment. His talents lie in production design, print collateral and intensive branding campaigns. In his free time you can find him in antique shops in search of props and vintage suitcases and trunks to add to his sizeable collection.
“The title treatments were a real treat. With inspiration from atomic explosions and robots, the titles came effortlessly! I also manage Trike Turtles, pampering her oversized ego with specialty lettuce only found in Madagascar and other hard to reach places. Ever since her starring role in Anodyne it’s hard to get her out of bed.”
Anodyne was shot on location in the post-mining arts enclave of Bisbee, AZ and the surrounding area. With endless nooks and crannies, it was easy to take advantage of all the old time charm. Here are a few key locations in and near Bisbee.
Lowell is a mining town consumed by a mine. Once a sizeable town a stone’s throw from Old Bisbee, the bulk of Lowell was razed for the Lavender Pit Mine in the 1950s. Erie Street alone was left, only to be abandoned with the closing of the mine in the 1970s. Erie Street is now frozen in twilight. Semi-restored storefronts that aren’t actually open but display notes reading, “Back in 5 minutes,” lend a post-apocalyptic feel. The party, running, lab, and switchboard scenes were all shot on Erie Street in mostly vacant buildings at night.
The Shady Dell
The Shady Dell Vintage Trailer Court in Lowell provided refuge to travellers on Highway 80 as far back as 1927. Today, with 50s music wafting across the grounds and vintage trailers designed to transport you to yesteryear, it is a perfect location for filming. The diner, phone booth, and Cadillac scenes were all shot at night at the Shady Dell.
The Gay 90’s
This infamous bar in the tiny border town of Naco, AZ dates backs to the 1890s, hence the name. Naco is the site of the only aerial bombing by a foreign power on the continental United States. Today locals play pool, enjoy a great tequila selection, and sometimes walk across the border to Naco, Sonora for comida. Padre Alfonso’s resignation of his faith was captured at The Gay 90’s.
Fernando Serrano as “Padre Alfonso San Fernando”
Fernando Serrando is Tucson-born but a son of Mexico. 24, he currently lives in the magical town of Bisbee, Arizona among gods and monsters. He starred in the film Bisbee ’17. He is his own personal Jesus.
“My character Padre Alfonso San Fernando is defrocked but still lives under the guise of a man of God. Living for the bottle and a thrill, he does not acknowledge his fall from grace until it is perhaps too late.”