The small rural town of La Coste Texas is suffering a crop plague and citizens are leaving in droves, abandoning farms that have been in the families for generations. TEXAS COTTON, written by Tyler Russell and Jameel Khaja, is a Central Texas western style drama filmed in and around San Antonio and the Texas Hill country. When it premiered at the Austin Film Festival a few months ago it was billed as a crime drama, but it’s equal parts slapstick humor as Sheriff Travis Delmore (Troll 2’s George Hardy) and an inept deputy named Barney (Torren Davis) try to get to the bottom of what’s going on in their small burg. After a stranger (The Walking Dead’s Lew Temple) is reported “spraying things” the trail leads in a roundabout way from that stranger full circle back to the town’s pillars of the community.
An enjoyable whodunit, the film’s has enough twists and turns to keep the audience guessing who the real villain is, when a spectacular gunfight in a car (cleverly shot by cinematographer Chris Bourke) becomes a highlight near the surprise ending of this crime-drama.
TEXAS COTTON is the second feature film from director Tyler Russell, who previously helmed the 2016 heist-comedy Here Comes Rusty, starring Joey Lauren Adams, Fred Willard, Mark Borchardt and “Colonel” Bruce Hampton. Russell co-wrote and co-produced TEXAS COTTON with Jameel Khaja, who previously wrote the 2001 Austin Film Festival Feature Film Award winner and 2002 Berlin Film Festival Special Jury Prize winner A Passage to Ottawa.
We spoke with Director/WriterTyler Russell about the making of the film.
AMFM: How was the script written?
TYLER RUSSELL: At first we worked really hard and what the idea for the conspiracy was.”What kind of interesting crime would work in a small nowhere town in the middle of Texas?” And crops came up a lot. A lot of people don’t know that cotton is the number one crop in Texas. We based it around there. Then my writers Gus Meltenberger and Andy Silvermanworked really hard with me on these characters. We went back and forth on “Well, if this character is doing this then…what is this person doing? We went through every person throughout the entire movie. And the scenarios and we picked the one that was interesting and made the most sense
Then we want to do some twists that worked. Then we wanted to do some ,” we wanted the pay out to be really fulfilling at the end.
AMFM: And it was. George’s performance was really fun to watch. The car scene at the very end was unexpected how much fun was it to film that?
GEORGE HARDY: I want to thank you for saying that. we started filming at 8 or 9 at night and it went till 2 in the morning. A lot of the directions came from outside the car, Tyler was outside… and Lew was right there coaching me the whole time.
Working with Lew was amazing, but I was getting pretty tired. My neck was hurting so much I had to look over at Lew the three or four hours. Bottom line is It was amazing to work with him… I love that scene – loved it.
AMFM: The small town that you filmed Where’s that Mission? It looked vaguely familiar to me. That’s near San Antonio isn’t it?
TYLER RUSSELL: Yes it’s inside San Antonio near the heart near the heart of downtown about a mile from the Alamo.
AMFM: I know it’s a crime-thriller but there were moments of humor that were thrown in so what I want to know is what did not make it into the final cut?
TYLER RUSSELL: There were A couple of scenes that were more comedic, but we wanted to keep the tone of the film the same throughout. Some of them were really funny to read on paper but then when you film it, it’s not funny and it just throws off the story. We had one scene with Miss Maybellline Fellers (Terri Merritt Bennett), who is the police chief’s wife. And George comes in, and I don’t want to give it away but George has been in danger. He comes in all dirty and messed up, and the Chief is like “what happened to you?” And George says “oh just hanging out, you know” basically lying to her. And she says “well okay but you got some s*** on your So take them off before you come in.” George thinks it’s funny, but he tries to walk inside and stops him. Then she’s like” no seriously you have sh***t on your boots. The way she said it was absolutely hilarious and we must have watched it a hundred times but we had to cut it. In person she’s so sweet and so nice but to hear her say that was hilarious…it was a great one, but it will never be out there.
AMFM: I actually started to wonder if George was maybe in more Danger from Maybelline.
GEORGE HARDY:Yeah, you kind of get that subtle feel in the movie. Like maybe we were boyfriend and girlfriend from way back, maybe in our teenage years.But then she went ends up marrying Chief of Police Fellers.
TYLER RUSSELL: All small towns are like that they’re so nice to each other on the surface . space space people are real and they trust each other.
AMFM: What is it that you want people to take away from this movie what do you want them to feel what he wanted to take away?
TYLER RUSSELL: For me it’s just a fun time to go to the cinema. go back to pure raw cinema. It should make you think, make you feel a whole lot of emotions. But there’s also a line that George says in the film that’s really great “You better treat things with kindness or you go nowhere.” That’s a part of his character and that’s the point of the whole movie.
GEORGE HARDY: And digging up the truth…Innocent until proven guilty …how to hold judgment ’till we find out what the real truth is. That’s what it was for me
TYLER RUSSELL:: We’re going to do a limited theatrical release. Then we go all over Texas, then Utah California for a week, Alabama, all around in Canada… possibly Germany.
TEXAS COTTON will be released theatrically November 16th, and available online.