"Raising Buchanan" Quirky Comedy About A Stiff And A Donut Girl

Thur 3:00pm May 16 - Gateway Community College

Raising Buchanan 104 min. Dir. Bruce Dellis - In suburban Phoenix, 40-year-old Ruth Kiesling is not exactly “living the dream.” She’s a donut shop employee with anger issues. She’s got no mother, a dead brother, and a father in hospice. Her few friends include her roommates: Meg, her game-for-anything confidante since junior high; Holly, a somewhat level-headed janitor and amateur ventriloquist; and her probation officer, Philip Crosby.

Ruth’s only creative outlet is playing her cello in the background of a series of popular YouTube videos featuring Errol, an egotistical ventriloquist. Ever the opportunist and desperate for money, Ruth finds herself in a position to “steal” the body of President James Buchanan. She does so, hoping to ransom him for a nice windfall.

Director Biography - Bruce Dellis

BRUCE DELLIS is a writer/director from Tempe, Arizona. He was selected as the 2006 Arizona Filmmaker of the Year by the Phoenix Film Foundation. He has been nominated for 13 Rocky Mountain Emmy awards, winning four.

His short film, “A. Lincoln: a Life Embellished,” won several awards, including Best Local Short from the Phoenix Film Festival and Best US short film from the Rome Film Festival. Bruce wrote and directed three films for the TV show, Screen Wars: “Doug, Mitch, and the Ironclad Argument;” “The Intervention of Brad;” and “John Philip Sousa Gets a Haircut.” These projects resulted in multiple awards at the Rocky Mountain Emmy and Screen Wars award ceremonies. Other award-winning short films include an oddball film about the PTA, a micro-musical starring Amanda Melby, and “Michael’s Hearing Problem,” a three-minute film featuring 18 speaking roles.

Bruce wrote a short film, “The Netherbeast of Berm-Tech Industries, Inc.,” produced by Brian and Dean Ronalds, which had a long life on the festival circuit, picking up a hatful of awards. The same filmmaking team followed that with another short, “Little Victim,” starring Robert Wagner, Laura Durant and Lori Singer.

Bruce’s first feature-length screenplay, “Netherbeast Incorporated,” was produced in 2007. Based on the earlier short, the film starred Steve Burns, Judd Nelson, Jason Mewes, Dave Foley and (once again) Robert Wagner.

Recently, Bruce wrote and directed “The Benevolent Byzantine Order of the Nobles of the Enigmatic Oracle” — a chapter of “Locker 13,” an anthology feature film produced by Brothers’ Ink Productions. The film stars David Huddleston (“The Big Lebowski”) and Curtis Armstrong (“Revenge of the Nerds”).

Director Statement – Bruce Dellis

In fifth grade, my classmates and I were required to create an art project based on American history. One kid made a skinny Statue of Liberty out of pipe cleaners; another drew Paul Revere on a lopsided horse. My project? A small replica of the gallows where the four Lincoln assassination conspirators were hung. Yeah, I was that kid.

The notion of presenting history through art was always a big deal to me – the more irreverent or grim, the better. Almost all of my films have contained a healthy nugget of historical reference.

Our film, “Raising Buchanan,” concerns a desperate woman who steals the corpse of former US president James Buchanan, hoping to net a large ransom – but finds that no one is particularly interested in getting him back. It was inspired by a couple of true presidential corpse stories: the 1876 plot to steal Abraham Lincoln’s body, and the exhumation of Zachary Taylor in 1991. When they dug up Taylor, it occurred to me at that time that someone might be tempted to steal his corpse. But I quickly dismissed the idea since the president in question was, well…Zachary Taylor – I mean, who’d pay to get him back?

So when actor-producer Amanda Melby contacted me about creating a project together, this oddball dead-president-meets-reckless-woman idea was the one she responded to. Amanda, often cast as sweet, girl-next-door types, was eager to play an impulsive character who can’t seem to get out of her own way.

While we’ve elected some terrible presidents over the decades, only a small handful could compete with James Buchanan in a race to the bottom. When originally conceived, Buchanan was the consensus pick for our lousiest president. Whether he will retain the title is a question ripe for debate.

Tonally, we weren’t interested in turning this into a wacky, over-the-top romp. Instead, we found inspiration in the off-kilter tone of the dramatically-rooted comedies of Alexander Payne, the Coen Brothers, and Hal Ashby.

We also wanted to showcase the diversity of filming locations that Arizona has to offer, from the suburbs to downtown, from the desert to pine country. Our cast is a mix of top-notch local actors and a few LA vets, like René Auberjonois (as Buchanan) and M. Emmet Walsh. And our all-AZ crew brought us in on-time and on-budget.

That said, we didn’t escape the production unscathed. A well-documented incident with an actor resulted not only in the removal of that actor, but also in bringing the cast and crew closer together–more committed to eliminating unhealthy nonsense from our industry.

As the son of a couple of schoolteachers, I was taught early and often that we citizen-types are supposed to learn not just about history, but from history. That’s precisely what Ruth experiences--literally and figuratively–in the film, and it’s what I find endlessly inspiring, both onscreen and off. Can we really learn something from a terrible president? Jeez, I sure hope so.


05.16.19 - 3:00 pm
1 hour 45 minutes