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Cement Suitcase Interview with Writer-Director, Rick Castañeda

041514aWe are always interested in watching movies that take place in wine country. Cement Suitcase takes place in Washington’s Yakima Valley. Several scenes were filmed at Airfield Estates Winery. We visited Prosser and Airfield Estates. We were intrigued to see a setting where we have been in the movie. This is an email interview with writer/director Rick Castañeda.

Wine Trail Traveler: When did you first become interested in wine? Describe the event, reason, tipping point, etc.
Rick Castañeda:
I grew up in Granger, WA, and my parents have some lifelong friends that live in Seattle who used to travel three hours to visit us and try out some of the local wineries. One of them, Eaton Hill, was a winery I had never noticed before, even though it was on my bus ride from school every single day. So it made me wonder, what was so special about wine that it could drag someone all the way from the other side of the state?

Wine Trail Traveler: How has your personal wine journey evolved since you first became interested in wine?
Rick Castañeda:
One of the reasons I wrote the movie was in order to learn more about wine. I knew next to nothing when I started, so writing a movie about a tasting room manager was very intimidating. But it was such a great excuse to learn.  I started drinking more wine, visiting wineries and going to tastings, and also asking questions, both to experts, and to my family and friends who were wine lovers. It was a wonderful time of my life.

I found that having a passion for wine is a lot like a passion for music. Before you start listening to country music, you think that it all sounds exactly the same. Then you start learning the difference between bluegrass, and honky tonk, and rockabilly, and it just gets deeper and deeper. The same thing is true for wine. In the Yakima Valley alone there are more than 50 wineries, so it’s something you can explore almost infinitely.

Wine Trail Traveler: Do you have favorite wines and wine regions to visit?
Rick Castañeda:
Of course I’m partial to the Yakima Valley, Columbia Valley, and Red Mountain in Washington state. What I really like is how unpretentious and friendly everyone is. But as I live in Los Angeles now, visiting the Santa Barbara region is really wonderful, and as a film buff it’s fun to visit the locations from the film Sideways.

Wine Trail Traveler: Why did you select Prosser, WA and Airfield Estates for the setting for the winery and tasting room?
Rick Castañeda: My brother and I stopped in at Airfield Estates on a trip back home for my brother’s bachelor party, and I remember I thought it had a great look and feel to it. The use of wood and glass in their tasting room is very cinematic. I also found out on that trip that one of the owners was a girl I knew in high school! So Airfield was always in the back of my head while I was writing the script. I knew I couldn’t be married to it, and I had a few backups, but when I asked Airfield they were very enthusiastic about it, and I couldn’t have been happier.

Wine Trail Traveler: Did you experience and tasting room staff that acted like Franklin on his good days?
Rick Castañeda:
Dwayne Bartholomew (the lead actor who plays Franklin) and I took a trip to Washington in order to scout a few locations, and get a feel for the area. Dwayne was also exploring his character a bit, and wanted to see how wine tastings went there. We found some real characters. Some told dirty jokes, some had created a tasting schedule for food/wine pairings, and others had a personal story to share with each different wine. The ones that we liked all had a way of connecting with us personally, almost immediately, and that’s something I wrote into the movie, and something Dwayne wrote into his character.

Wine Trail Traveler: In some scenes, the actors are holding their wine glasses by the stems. In other scenes, they are holding the bowls. In a scene with Franklin, he holds the stem, then from a different camera angle he is holding the bowl. Currently I am at an International Wine Tourism Conference. The vast majority of individuals hold the stems. Your film has more scenes holding by the stem than most films. Why do filmmakers consistently film what some in the wine industry would say is the incorrect way to hold wine glasses (the bowl)?
Rick Castañeda:
One thing I’ve found out about people, is they generally do what they want to do. People generally enjoy wine the way they want to enjoy it, so I never legislated to our extras how they should hold their wine glasses. If I did, it would have been inauthentic, because our extras weren’t paid actors – they were actual customers of Airfield. And Franklin, of course, is a bit of a rebel, so he would do whatever he wanted to anyway. But as for other movies? Probably for the same reason that the heroes in action movies usually don’t practice the gun safety that we should use in real life.

Cement Suitcase is available on Video on Demand from many outlets including iTunes and Amazon. Check the Cement Suitcase website for additional sales opportunities.



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