Beauty in the unlikely

The Ross brothers have mostly adopted a documentary style of filmmaking, especially the visuals. Most of the film feels like a social media vlog by a Gen Z teenager.
A still from Gasoline Rainbow
A still from Gasoline Rainbow

CHENNAI : The director duo, Ross Brothers—Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross—are best known for their verite style of filmmaking. Their latest, Gasoline Rainbow, which was recently released on Mubi, is their first entirely fictional film. However, even then, they’ve gone for an observational and unscripted style of direction. The filmmakers are aware that this style of filmmaking is not for all, and that’s why, when asked about the mixed reception for Gasoline Rainbow, they confidently say, “There are people who never get our films, which is fine. There are plenty of films out there for them.”

Gasoline Rainbow revolves around a group of teens from Oregon, who embark on an adventure to the Pacific Coast by road. On the elusive, poetic title, Turner reveals that they had a hard time trying to convey the meaning of the film through the title. The duo apparently went through a ridiculous process to finalise Gasoline Rainbow. “We got towards the tail end and didn’t know what to call it,” he says, as Bill adds, “We would wake in the middle of the night, write a title down, look at it the next morning, and then reject it. We had probably 500 titles like that.” Turner says, “The title means finding poetry in unlikely places, beauty in ugly things, or hope in toxic situations, just like finding a rainbow in gasoline.”

The Ross brothers have mostly adopted a documentary style of filmmaking, especially the visuals. Most of the film feels like a social media vlog by a Gen Z teenager. Bill says, “We didn’t want it to be too pretty. We wanted the audience to feel like they were along for the ride as well.” The film’s dialogues also seemed to be penned in a way that could provide an up-close and personal experience for the viewers. “All the dialogues are from the actors. We had nothing written down as far as dialogue goes,” Bill reveals. On why they went with an unconventional approach to dialogue writing, Bill explains, “I’m going to fail if I try to assume what two teenage girls are going to talk about on a road trip. So we really were striving to set up scenarios so that they could just be themselves and have those conversations.”

Turner Ross and Bill Ross IV
Turner Ross and Bill Ross IV

The film revolves around two girls and three boys, all of them were played by debutants. The entire film relies heavily upon the camaraderie the five teens share, and Turner says that it was “movie magic” that made the friendship look so real, as the teenagers didn’t know each other until they started filming. The actors were introduced to twists and turns as the camera was rolling. For example, in the scene in which the tyres of their van gets stolen, they didn’t know that they would lose them. Reflecting on their own improvisational style, Turner declares, “No doubt, it’s an insane way to make a film.”

Elaborating on their process, Turner says, “We work this way because we don’t want to have a preconceived notion of what it should be, or predetermine what the actors would say, how they would feel, what they would do, in any given situation. We want to allow them to express themselves in their own unique way.” On the limited appeal of such unconventional films, Turner signs off by saying, “We made the film we wanted to make, and everybody is entitled to their opinions.”

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