“Listen to the wind.
Listen to the leaves
and the water
brushing the sand.
When a stone speaks to you,
you bend down
and you pick it up.”
Carver from “Skippers”
Writer/director Aaron Wertheimer’s feature-length Skippers will premiere on Sunday, July 15 at the second annual Windy City International Film Festival.
“It’s a beautiful thing to watch, a stone skipping,” reflects Wertheimer.
According to Wertheimer, Skippers is an offbeat comedic blend of Terrence Malick, Jim Jarmusch, and one of those “breakdancing gang movies or motorcycle gang movies.”
The film’s primary focus is the stark contrast between a real estate agent and a vagabond.
As if pulled out of Jarmusch’s Permanent Vacation, Carver (played by Chris Roberti) is a wanderer with zero interest in the adult toils of life. All he wants to do is skip.
Wertheimer states that Carver is “trying to get away from the trappings of today’s technology and just wants to do something real.”
Kevin (played by comedian Kenny Zimlinghaus) cares only for property value and is worried about a skipping vagabonds’ corrupting influence on his quiet town.
Carver, on the other hand, has shed the capitalistic ways of his sponsored skipping team and lives only for the pure love of the skip.
Unlike Allie in Permanent Vacation, Carver has no angst towards the world. Instead, he carries with him the internal peace of a Buddha.
These two lead characters are destined to butt heads and hurl stones.
Toss in a few love interests and skip offs, and everyone involved can’t help but splash headfirst into life lessons and revelations.
Oh yeah, and there is plenty of skipping.
According to Wertheimer, Chris Roberti “learned to skip. He just got really into it. I guess that’s why to hire real actors.”
That’s right, no stuntman.
“He was incredible,” says Wertheimer. “He did all of the skipping in the movie.”
Don’t worry if it becomes difficult to tell what to take seriously and what to laugh at in Skippers, that is the point.
For one, it becomes tempting to drift into the majestic dream sequences and poetic voice-overs that highlight the skipping stones flying around Bay City, Michigan and Beacon, New York.
In 2015, Wertheimer’s feature-film debut Wedgerino screened at the Hell’s Half Mile Film and Music Festival in Bay City.
One year later, the support of festival director Alan LaFave and Michigan’s beautiful bodies of water made filming Skippers in Bay City an obvious choice. Wertheimer and team filmed there over the course of 13 days in early November of 2016.
They picked a historical time to shoot. Wertheimer recalls, “I remembered a big thing that happened while we were shooting.”
“The Cubs won the World Series, so everyone was psyched. And then five days later Trump won the election, and everyone was bummed.”
Months later, during the editing process in Evanston, Illinois, it became clear to Wertheimer and editor Anthony Mascorro that more skipping was needed.
“Once we started editing, I felt like we needed some more variety of the skipping shots,” comments Wertheimer.
There just wasn’t quite enough skipping yet for one film.
“We did one extra day of drone and Go-Pro underwater stuff… in Beacon, New York.”
Wertheimer also played the role of skipper Gerard.
When asked if there are any interesting stories from filming with such a comical cast, Wertheimer responded, “It was fun to get a haircut.”
He also recalled, “My daughter started to walk while we were there… that could be the headline of the story.”
Wertheimer’s baby daughter Eliana played Abigail in the film, and she took her first steps on set.
“I mean, I realized as I was saying that that it’s only probably interesting to me,” laughs Wertheimer.
Aaron Wertheimer is a writer, director, and editor who is currently stationed in Evanston, Illinois. Besides writing and directing Wedgerino and Skippers, he has worked as a production manager/coordinator for numerous shows, including Viceland TV’s Gaycation.
To experience more of Wertheimer’s humor firsthand, attend the premiere of Skippers at the Windy City International Film Festival at 4:15 pm on Sunday, July 15 at the Biograph Theatre.
For the Windy City Festival’s full schedule and screen times, click here.
Contact Joey Filer at Joey@reelchicago.com. or follow him on Twitter @FilerJoey