SALT LAKE CITY — When Brian Finn started AOE Media, he committed to making good, family-friendly films in Utah. "Resilience and the Last Spike," coming out May 10, is his latest project in this endeavor.
Finn worked in Hollywood for 20 years. But he and his wife didn't want to raise their children in L.A. They chose Utah instead.
Finn picked Utah for a few reasons. For one, he lived here for a year and attended Carbon High School in Price — one of 19 schools he attended from first grade through high school. He was also a huge Utah Jazz fan, specifically a John Stockton fan, and attended as many Jazz games as he could while living in L.A.
"Southwest Airlines used to have a $25 Monday flight," Finn remembered. "If they had seats available you could go anywhere they fly. I would get on a plane, fly to see the Jazz play and then fly home."
He then met his wife, who is from Ogden, making Utah the top of their list to raise a family. Since then he's been working to build AOE Media, and bring film projects to Utah.
Through his company, Finn hopes to create action films with a good message. For "Resilience and the Last Spike," the family message is prominent, but Finn said it's still first and foremost an action movie.
"I want people to be watching this movie, and not even understand … (they're) watching a family show. They're watching just a fun action adventure, and they're getting messages subtly," Finn said. "I don't want to be preachy. I don't want want to talk down. I don't want to talk about doctrines. I just want to be positive with my images."
"Resilience and the Last Spike" doesn't just have family values. It was also inspired by Finn's own family. Finn wrote the film for his daughter, Kiara. Finn was working on a short film, which Kiara was going to star in, but when that project fell through he decided to write his own film.
"The whole reason I'm doing this is to work with my family," Finn said. "I sat down and started writing at 11 at night. About 13 hours later, I finished the overall story of 'Resilience' … and I'm not a writer. That's not my thing. It was just based on passion and vision and everything else. I wrote the script for my daughter, in essence."
Kiara plays 11-year-old Resilience "Rizzy" O'Neil, who goes on an adventure through Utah to find treasure left 150 years ago by workers on the transcontinental railroad. The film premieres May 10 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the First Transcontinental Railroad's completion.
As the writer and director, it was important to Finn that most of the story be told through action. After working as a stunt coordinator and art director for years in Hollywood, Finn said he felt uniquely prepared to direct "Resilience." Finn said combining the two specialties is rare as they require different skill sets, utilizing creative and technical thinking, but both were required on this project. Finn attributes his affinity for action and storytelling to his love for gaming as a boy.
"I was one of those Dungeons & Dragons nerds. I would play football or baseball, and then while everyone else was going to parties I would go and play D&D with my buddies," Finn said.
His experience in both areas enabled him to make "Resilience and the Last Spike" with as small a crew as possible. They filmed for 45 days, and Finn said there were only five crew members for most of the time. The entire cast and crew was only 27 people, but the community also pulled together to help, with 75 volunteers.
"It's a testament to how much hard work and how much everybody put in, and how many jobs people did," Finn said. "It was the epitome of a passion project."Comment on this story
"Resilience and the Last Spike," also highlights Utah's landscape. Finn wrote the script with Utah's scenery in mind and filmed in 32 locations throughout Utah. He compared the film to a postcard or advertisement for Utah's natural beauty. His goal other than making a beautiful film is to bring more filmmakers to Utah and to turn "Resilience and the Last Spike" into a series.
"The movie itself is a pilot or a pitch. It's a pitch to make a series about this little girl that's a treasure hunter," he explained. "The goal will be to bring that here and employ as many Utah people as we can."