Filmed at an old-timey barbershop in Elizabethtown, North Carolina, “Long Drive to Yadkin” is familiar to me in many ways. I’m originally from Mount Airy, NC and this barbershop and town are both very reminiscent of the timeless Main Street and Floyd’s Barbershop I know. “I am well aware of Floyd’s Barbershop up there [in Mount Airy] and even thought of that as a potential option at one point!” Wilmington-based filmmaker Parrish Stikeleather says of his short film.
“I was looking all over NC, especially southeastern NC, for an older barbershop that had remained preserved after all these years,” he explains. “I had found a couple but the one in Elizabethtown just worked out because the owner, Russ Bridgers, was so kind and welcoming. The barbershop is called Bridgers Barbershop and it’s right in the heart of Elizabethtown, which is an amazing community of really kind people. So, it really was a practical decision as it was only an hour away from Wilmington and we had full access to the shop on a Thursday while it was closed.”
“Long Drive to Yadkin” first screened to an audience at Cucalorus 2019 and now Cucalorus will feature it as part of next week’s 4th annual Tarheel Shorties Film Festival. The virtual festival kicks off August 25-27, 2020, and “Long Drive to Yadkin” will show with the “Homebound and Hungry” block on Tuesday, August 25, starting at 8 p.m.
“I was surprised with how many laughs it got [at Cucalorus 2019],” Stikeleather remembers. “Of course there are a few jokes and odd moments in there, so I was really glad to see that reaction. . . . People have been very kind to the film which is encouraging. And everyone has had really great things to say about the performances, which I am also very proud of.”
Featuring actors Jerry Winsett, Don Henderson Baker and Nina Repeta, “Long Drive to Yadkin” introduces viewers to Ed, an older gentleman who we immediately get the sense that he’s a recluse. The Barber, who obviously knows everyone in town, doesn’t recognize Ed as he walks in early one morning for a haircut and shave. Despite Ed’s aloof demeanor and disinterest in small talk, we learn he’s headed to a place called Yadkin. Naturally, The Barber tries to chat Ed up, asking what’s in Yadkin, to which Ed replies, “Yadkin’s in Yadkin.”
Spoiler alert: Ed dies in the barber’s chair. But the story does not end there. While Ed’s character and storyline were quickly painted as a lonely man coming to the end of a life wasted, Stikeleather had more he wanted to explore.
“The initial seed of the idea was what if a barber was cutting someone’s hair and they died right in the middle of the haircut,” Stikeleather explains. “How would the barber handle it? What would happen?”
Set in a smalltown in an ambiguous time period (perhaps pre-dating 911), The Barber calls the local sheriff, who didn’t pick up. This leads him to search around in Ed’s wallet for clues about who he was and who The Barber might notify of his passing. Indeed, he finds a phone number.
“He figures the phone number in the wallet must be a loved one, so he feels compelled to make the call,” Stikeleather explains. “The idea was that when you’re getting your haircut there is this space for small talk and for a barber and the customer to sort of get to know one another. I think since their conversation didn’t make it very far, and then the man died, he feels compelled to sort of find out who this person is.”
A woman answers the call who turns out to be Ed’s ex-wife. We learn they did not part on good terms and she paints Ed to be a pretty miserable SOB. Nevertheless, when the barber presses her about what might be in Yadkin for Ed, she repeats her ex-husband’s response, those equally vague and self-explanatory words: “Yadkin’s in Yadkin.”
“The idea with both Ed and his ex saying the line was that it is exactly that—a sort of statement that is maybe the only thing they really agree on or understand about one another,” Stikeleather says. “It’s really open to many meanings and understandings. I don’t think it means one thing. It means something to me, but it could mean something completely different to the viewer. That’s what makes short films, and movies in general so great. They can mean all types of things to all types of people. . . . People react differently to the ending with the ‘Yadkin’s in Yadkin’ line and that’s probably been my favorite thing to see.”
While Stikeleather has been making movies for 15 years—shorts, documentary work, promo pieces, and do on—”Long Drive to Yadkin” is his most recent work to date. Everyone involved was a North Carolina local, which helped with efficiency—they managed to film everything they needed in one day.
“This was probably the smoothest shoot I’ve ever had, which can fully attest to how great the crew and cast were,” he notes. “The day we filmed happened to be Jerry Winsett’s birthday—our barber! We had a cake for him at the end of the day and all sang ‘Happy Birthday’ right as we wrapped. Our DP, Eli Wallace-Johansson, even hit record on the camera and captured it all. It was definitely my most fun day on set.”
Stikeleather is now working to adapt the short into a feature-length film. “I’m in the writing process right now and I’m really excited about it,” he divulges. “The story and characters are a bit different but the title, tone and world are very much the same. I hope to go into production at some point in 2021 but we will see. Just trying to make as many movies as I can with the amazing community of filmmakers we have here in NC!”
Stay tuned for more featured filmmakers at Tarheel Shorties Film Festival at encorepub.com.