What I love most about writer/director’s Jimmie Buchanan Jr.’s film is that it doesn’t give in to the trap that all independent films face, which is to match the story to the budget. OPERATION: RAVEN is a cop story, and it needs gunfights and ninjas and helicopter chase scenes. Instead of just setting the entire film in their friend’s living room, they figured out what their version of that big budget action sequence could be – for the helicopters it involved hand-built models like something out of Mystery-Science Theatre 3000. No, this is not a film for a picky cinephile, it’s rough, and campy, but it is fun. And that’s what independent film lacks so often, a joy inherent in its creation.
He did have a few priceless budget items in his pocket, like his lead actress, who holds the film together with gritty determination in the face of an increasingly outlandish plot. What’s great about her character is that she is never discounted by the mere fact that she is female. “The main character could be played by a man with no changes to the script,” says Buchanan. “Nobody ever assumes Sheila is weak, nobody is surprised that she is a good cop, nobody is embarrassed that she is tougher or better at police work than them, and she is never treated as a sex object.” In fact ,“there is no attempt to address her romantic needs, which is very unique in a movie with a female lead, but not that unique in movies with male leads.” McCullough had just moved to Portland from Chicago when Buchanan met her. As the music editor of a local paper as well as a bartender, she was, as he describes her “a gorgeous babe who smokes and drinks whiskey while writing articles about what the next big band in Portland is going to be, a very young Barbara Stanwyck. At some point you realize being cool isn’t everything and the ‘coolest’ jobs aren’t always the best ones for you. I think it’s called growing up.“ Years later, Buchanan tried to create this fantasy homage to ‘how badass Amy was’ with Sheila Raven. Not that she’s any less badass now, “Amy still reminds me of a badass Barbara Stanwyck,” says Buchanan “except now it’s the 30-year-old version, which everyone knows is even more desirable.”
Honestly, every would-be and currently-in-the-trenches Lowbudget/Nobudget filmmaker should see this film, it’s a great example of what can be done, and it’s a good time. When I was a kid, I loved running around with my camcorder and shooting my friends on bike chases down suburban streets, firing at each other with disk guns. Eventually you grow out of that and you write the film about being out of college and not having a job and not knowing what do with the rest of your life. Jimmie Buchanan Jr. has found a way to dial back the time machine and recapture the sheer delight of making a movie with all the naïveté of youth and all the guts of an auteur.
OPERATION: RAVEN makes its world premiere at the Galaxy Highland Theatre for one night only, Wednesday February 26th, at 7:00 pm. Check out http://www.galaxytheatres.com/highland/movie-info?film=882 for more information.