James Le Gros in Buck Run.

Director Nick Frangione had a troubled upbringing in rural Pennsylvania—but he used those experiences to inspire Buck Run, a film that will premiere as part of the Palm Springs International Film Festival.

The film follows 15-year-old Shaw (played by Nolan Lyons), who is reunited with his alcoholic father as he’s coping with his mother’s death.

“It’s very, very similar to my childhood, but it’s not exact,” Frangione said during a recent interview. “I did grow up in rural Pennsylvania; my mother passed away when I was a teenager, and my father and I had to renegotiate our relationship. It’s very similar, but there are slight differences. My father wasn’t a hunter, for example, and we didn’t live in a hunting cabin. I also was out of place in my town, and I didn’t really fit very well.”

In the film, the funeral for the mother provides a major plot point.

“The father is very poor, and he’s kind of forced into this situation where he doesn’t have the means for (the funeral), and the main character, Shaw, doesn’t understand that or have the ability to understand that,” Frangione said. “He just really wants to honor his mother and honor her memory and have the normal things one would expect when a parent passes away.”

The on-screen chemistry between Nolan Lyons and James Le Gros, who plays the father, is splendid; Frangione said the casting couldn’t have been any better.

“(Nolan) was just amazing. I wanted a very sensitive kid, and I didn’t want the story about a rough kid. Nolan was just that immediately in the audition: He blew everyone away,” Frangione said. “We really wanted James (Le Gros), because I don’t think there is anybody in the world who could have played that role as well as he did, and it was just perfect.”

The film was shot in rural Pennsylvania.

“We shot in a farmers’ market when it was really happening; we got real Amish people to be in the film,” Frangione said. “We embedded ourselves in the community for a number of months to be able to do that, and we became a part of it, which is the only way I wanted to do it—all real locations, real people’s homes. They all got to know us, and we got to know them, and we made lifelong friends.”

Making a film that’s loosely based on your own life can lead to some perspective-challenging moments, according to Frangione.

“It brought up a lot,” he said. “At first, I really only saw Shaw’s perspective, and I realized no one would want to watch that film, because it’d be too cynical. It was a process of understanding my own father and understanding the people and the place I came from. It ended up being very cathartic, and yet beautiful. It was hard at times, and also really beautiful and worth it at the end of it all.”

Frangione said he plans on working again with the writer of Buck Run, David Hauslein.

“The writer of Buck Run and I are working on another film about a 1970s trucker. It’s sort of a similar thing,” he said. “I didn’t know a lot about truckers, but I’ve grown up around them and have seen them in Pennsylvania. It’s about a trucker and his wife whose son gets kidnapped.”

Buck Run will be screened as part of the Palm Springs International Film Festival at 5 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 6, at Palm Springs High School, 2401 E. Baristo Road; and 1:30 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 8 at Mary Pickford is D’Place, 36850 Pickfair St., in Cathedral City. Tickets are $13. For tickets or more information, visit www.psfilmfest.org.

Brian Blueskye

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Brian Blueskye moved to the Coachella Valley in 2005. He was the assistant editor and staff writer for the Coachella Valley Independent from 2013 to 2019. He is currently the...