This was the official website for the 2003 film, Westender. Content is from outside sources including reviews from RottenTomatoes, other film critics, and a synopsis from IMDb.
Rating: PG-13 (for violence)
Genre: Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By: Brock Morse
Written By: Jefferson O.S.Brassfield, Jefferson Brassfield
On DiscStreaming: Dec 14, 2004
Runtime: 105 minutes
Studio: M.O.B Productions
Set in a fictional medieval world, this is the story of Asbrey of Westender. Once a great heroic knight, he has mysteriously fallen from grace. One night he drunkenly bets and loses his ring, his last possession of worth. He then embarks on a mission to regain his ring and, in due course, confront the demons of his past.
- Written by DarthBill
Homegrown cinema: Corvallis grads strike it big with their first feature film, ‘Westender,' a period fantasy piece about redemption.
By John Ginn
Entertainer Jun 7, 2003
Steve Locey remembers them as "those characters" - Brock Morse, Jefferson Brassfield and their gang of video cohorts: "those characters."
Locey, who is dean of students at Corvallis High School, uses the term in the fondest way. "Those characters were always running around videotaping everything. They were always up to something."
Now, nearly 10 years after high school, they are working under the name M.O.B. productions and are up to their biggest "something" yet. On June 13, their first feature film, "Westender," will receive its world premiere at the prestigious Seattle Film Festival. It is one of only nine films to make it through the jury process to become an official selection.
Shot entirely in Oregon, "Westender" makes fabulous use of the state's scenic beauty - from shots overlooking the ocean to forest glens to central and eastern Oregon vistas. Shot on a low budget, the film's look rivals that of many Hollywood movies costing millions more.
"Westender" is a period fantasy film. Asbrey, (actor Blake Stadel from Vancouver, B.C., Canada) is a once-famed knight now fallen on hard times. In his glory days, his nickname, Westender, was a rallying cry for his troops. Now, following a terrible tragedy, he spends his days drinking and gambling. One morning, he wakes to discover that he has gambled away his only valuable possession, a ring of great personal significance. Realizing that he has hit the fabled "rock bottom," Asbrey embarks on a quest to regain his ring, and maybe, in doing so, regaining some of his honor.
The epic tale is a long way from the early experimentations of a band of middle school kids turned loose with their dad's super 8 video camera. Morse and Brassfield first began making films in 1987. Later, in high school, they gradually accumulated like-minded individuals to their cause: Rob Simonsen, Hans Hlawaty and Rolf Nordhausen. Mostly self-taught, they learned their craft through sheer trial and error. Filmmaking has taken giant strides in the last few years with digital cameras and editing software available for home users, but back when they started, video editing was a hideously complex business of popping tapes in and out of machines, cueing them up and pushing buttons.
"By the time we got to our final cut, our original tape was probably mixed down to a fourth generation," Morse said, shaking his head like he can't believe how primitive it all was. Each generation a tape goes through would entail a loss of video quality, but Brock and company remained undeterred by their technical limitations, always thinking big, always looking toward the future.
A lot of their early productions were the usual kids' stuff: parodies, parodies and parodies. There were "Indiana Jones" spoofs, action film spoofs, and their magnum opus, "Bambo," an extended spoof of the "Rambo" movies. "I'm not really sure we'd even seen a "Rambo" movie, but we spoofed them anyway," Morse said.
In high school, their subject matter became more purposeful, and a couple of their spoofs became regular classroom viewing. They did an instructional driving safety film, and their tape "Health 101" is still shown on the last day of class as a hilarious reward for students who stuck with all the dry, boring stuff the rest of the term.
Following high school, the group went their separate ways. Morse went to Montana and then to Vancouver, B.C., to attend film schools there. Simonsen went to Southern Oregon University to study music. Brassfield went to Los Angeles to find what work he could.
TOMATOMETER AUDIENCE 50%
October 22, 2003
For what it is -- a debut by independent filmmakers from the central Willamette Valley -- it is astoundingly ambitious and accomplished.
December 13, 2004 | Rating: 2/5 |
A first time feature film director decides that he's going to make a middle ages period piece, full of action and sprawling vistas, olde age costumes and intense internal drama... on a low budget. What would your advice be to such an ambitious soul? Personally, I'd have said, "Fella, lay off the crack. A movie like this would cost you a million at least, if not ten." That Brock Morse received plenty of advice such as mine and still went out and made his film, is a testimony to the size of his balls, the steel in his spine and the stubborn streak evident in his character. No question, Mr Morse knows how to rally the troops and get things done on the cheap. Unfortunately, the result of all that rallying, Westender, is little more than a video business card for the man in question. And a long one at that.
When I was visiting Seattle in 2003 for the Seattle International Film Festival, I managed to see two weeks worth of great movies, one after another, all of them managing to reach an almost hideously good standard of quality. so I called up my roommate and said, "Yo Debbers, you've got to come down here and catch a flick. It's been awesome." Impressionable to a fault, Debbers arrived for the last weekend of the fest and caught precisely one flick - Westender. Let's just say it took a few drinks for me to shut her up about having wasted her Saturday night.
Which isn't to say that Westender is the worst film you'll see - far from it. It's sumptuously filmed, intensely performed, a veritable cornucopia of demonstrations of what a smart guy with no budget can do with a video camera, some renaissance fair enthusiasts and the outstanding natural scenery of the state of Oregon. Morse manages to capture imagery that makes you forget the script and think "ooooh." He pulls off an atmosphere of wartime in the middle ages with nothing more than trees, homemade costumes, plastic armor, the occasional horse-drawn cart, and a handful of clearly blunt swords. And he takes a whole lot of people who've never acted before and makes it only marginally obvious that... well, they've never acted before.
These are all strong points, and make Westender worth a look if you're a student of filmmaking. Where it all goes to hell in a horse hair handbasket is the storyline. Morse may well know his way around a storyboard, but he clearly needs to remember that the story in that word is more important than the board... or bored, as the case may be.
Lord Asbury of Westender (Blake Stadel, though he could be Bill Pullman's younger brother) is an old drunken former military hero who has just gambled away his ring - a trinket of extreme sentimental value. Awakened from a booze-soaked slumber, he goes apeshit when he learns the ring is gone, and heads out determined to track down the thief. Only, the man in question turns out to be no thief, but rather a jester, who has lost all of his worldly possessions escaping from a band of brigands. The missing items, which he has no intention of retrieving, include Westender's ring. Thus begins a trek to find the bad guys, with a tied-up jester in tow, through rocks and deserts and woods and all sorts of peril.
While all that may sound like a great tale, the potential of the story is never lived up to, with the best character in the script - the Jester - getting written out early, while the terminally silent and internally troubled Westender sulks and broods and starves and stumbles and curses his way through nearly two hours of orchestral score. What's worse is that the film feels like it's half an hour longer than that.
It should be said that I met Morse a few times during the Seattle festival and he struck me not only as a genuinely great guy, but a great guy that has no trouble surrounding himself with willing soldiers prepared to do whatever it takes to get a film made for next to no money. If he can take the positives from this film experience and parlay them into something that really needs to be made, rather than something that he wants to get made, he could well end up making his second film the kind of outing that opens wide and is well remembered by audiences.
I hope he does. But Westender, for all it's achievements, is little more than an example of why it's important to make a film when the script is ready, not just because the director is.
August 11, 2014
½* Mark S
awful film... just bad
July 15, 2005
Wow, I finally got to sit through Westender, last night. Tried a couple nights ago, but the kids were asking 500 questions, and of course I had to have a "Knight Expert" watching it too, and the comentary drove me nuts.
What can I say. Not your "A-Typical" Knight movie. Actually was pretty good. No movie is perfect, and there were a few slower parts, but I loved the last half of the movie. Really made me think about journeys, and decisions made at the end aren't always what you planned on
Certainly a must see, if you like Medieval movie