Local filmmakers wrap cycling movie | ParkRecord.com

Local filmmakers wrap cycling movie

Alisha Self, Of the Record staff

On the second to last day of filming "Peloton," writer/director John Lawrence got a call from his wife announcing that she was in labor.

The race to the hospital, he says, was nothing compared to the race scenes he had helped create during the course of the previous three weeks sending amateur cyclists careening down hills at 55 mph; simulating footage of large packs of riders, or "pelotons," from groups of half a dozen; and watching actors learn to click out of pedals without hitting the asphalt.

Lawrence and his team which includes Park City High School graduate JJ Gerber recently finished filming the bulk of his feature-length directorial debut.

"Peloton" is a cycling film, but its target audience extends beyond the cycling community. The storyline revolves around Nash, an amateur cyclist who is injured in a crash that breaks him physically and mentally. With the help of his best friend, Jack, Nash struggles to find his place and return to the sport he loves. Then Jack dies in a race, sending Nash into a destructive downward spiral and ultimately testing his will to live, race and love.

Lawrence wrote the first version of the script in 2002, not long after a friend and avid cyclist passed away. At the time, he was in the midst of medical training and says he penned much of the story before early-morning rounds.

"I’ve always loved film, theater and acting," he says. "It’s one of those dreams I had a kid but I never thought it was a possibility."

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The screenplay was written to be filmed in Utah, he says. "That was one of the big things we were excited about knowing the film community here and taking advantage of the local riders and racers."

Lawrence assembled the Peloton Productions crew from people he has met working in Utah’s film industry. Jeff Johnson, a Utah native, casting director and fellow actor, signed on as a producer along with Gerber, who moved to Los Angeles last year after graduating from the University of Utah’s film program and working on various local projects.

Gerber helped Lawrence come up with the lowest possible budget for the film in January 2008. They spent about two years trying to raise the money and finally Lawrence cashed out his retirement fund to reach the goal.

The team hired mostly local actors, riders, extras and crew members. Some of the actors had never ridden a road bike before, Lawrence says. Parkites Gardy Jackson and Chris McKay, who are members of the Cole Sport Racing team, helped train the riders and McKay ended up with a speaking role.

"The beautiful thing about this film is it was made by 99 percent local people and they all came together and made a great film," Lawrence says.

Everyone worked extremely hard in order to get everything done in a limited timeframe, he adds. In less than three weeks, the crew filmed scenes at East Canyon, Snowbasin Resort, Rocky Mountain Raceway, Sugarhouse, Bountiful and all over Salt Lake City.

The crew has scheduled a few more days of filming in Moab in September, but the bulk of the principal photography is done, Lawrence says.

"In a sense it feels like it’s just the beginning," he says. "That was the fun part, now the real work begins to actually assemble it and get it ready to go to festivals and get it distributed."

Matt Black, an independent filmmaker with more than 15 years experience as an editor, will be working on the film post-production. The goal is to submit the film to major film festivals around the world, including the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, and eventually to achieve wide release in theaters followed by distribution on cable television and through DVD sales.

The Utah Film Commission has offered a film incentive rebate worth $30,000 and the team is in the process of applying to receive that money.

"The main goal for us here is to make a good film and get it sold so we can make more," Johnson says.

For more information about "Peloton," visit http://pelotonthemovie.com.