Moments from The Toll Road

I’ve finally completed the work on The Toll Road and will be posting it on the blog shortly. It has been such an emotional ride throughout this project it’s impossible to describe, re-tell, or thank all those who have been involved. The original plot of the film was to document 4 friends (Shane, Byron, Jeff, and myself) taking a few fellow flying buddies from Europe on a grand tour of the American southwest. Sites such as the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Arches, Salt Flats, and Burning Man are without a doubt unforgettable locations to behold. Just two weeks after we had finished the tour in late August I got a call from Shane that Jeff was in a flying accident back home and didn’t make it.

Unexpected news like this … has no words. We were all just there together, how can this be? It was then that I was ever so determined to try and make this little film of ours as good as I can possibly make it so I can honor Jeff and share this great memory of him with his family. The story, however, felt like it was only half told. We were left in a state of never wanting to fly again and that’s not how it’s supposed to end. Nine months later the three of us got together (with Damon, the unyielding work-horse of a friend to help me film) to finish up the story by revisiting some of Jeff’s favorite sites and more. So this film’s journey takes us from the beginning – through Jeff’s passing – and in search of resolve.

Byron said it best: flying is great and all but it’s the relationships that mean the most. Then some of Jeff’s last recorded words were to the effect that it doesn’t matter where you’re from, when you’re out flying and on the road, we can all bond together. A lot of work and sacrifice from Shane, Byron, and Damon have been put into the production of this personal film and I thank them greatly for it.

Music. It has always been a huge dream of mine to compose my own music but other work projects have cause me to postpone all my ambitions. This time I was determined that I can do it. I used this project as an excuse to force myself to learn the recording tools I needed in order to score The Toll Road. While the genre’s tend to fade a bit from techno to western, I still enjoyed making it all. And of course there’s a cover song (and a half) in there that some may know but the other great miracle in making this comes from the friends behind the screen. I was asking Shane about music and he told me of another fellow Facebook friend and paramotor pilot, Chad Vermillion, who was an amazing guitarist. I sent him a note with tempo, key, etc. and in a few hours I had a recorded track in my inbox. My wife and daughter pitched in with a clutch performance in vocals and harmony, and I also had a local friend, Angie Sobek, who beautifully sang the closing song. I’m so grateful to all who have helped.

I’ll leave this entry on this note. Shane, Byron and I went out to Virginia to attend Jeff’s 2nd annual memorial gathering where we presented The Toll Road to his family and friends out at the Jeff Toll Memorial Field on a big screen. I had spent so many hours editing this and watching it over and over, but on this night with Jeff’s mom, dad, and wife next to me, it was like I was seeing it for the first time. Emotions ran deep. They are all so gracious and good people and made every minute I put into this worth it. This one is for you Jeff. Fly on.