Saturday, June 15, 2024

'Karma Bums' takes a road trip to Idaho

Hagadone News Network | February 1, 2023 1:00 AM

PORTHILL — When the pandemic arrived, Keon Hedayati had been shopping around a few scripts.

But COVID-19 shut everything down, and money to shoot films was nowhere to be seen.

It was then the multi-hyphenate director, actor and writer decided to go on a road trip — one that ended up in Porthill, near the Canadian border.

"I decided to write something that could be shot for a low budget that also was rooted in modern issues," Hedayati said.

The film, "Karma Bums," is a dramatic thriller about a down-on-their-luck pair who leave the past behind and restart their lives in Canada.

"Our movie is really about the three different archetypes in our current society, at least in America," Hedayati said.

One character is a quintessential American rebel who lives in the woods, shuns society and is righteous in his own way. The main character, Brandon, is an average Joe with aspirations but can't seem to get out of his own way. The villain character is the embodiment of pure chaos in today's world, a perennial type of person, Hedayati explained.

"I would say that the backbone of this film is to show Americans that there are people on the left who were good and bad," he said. "There are people on the right who are good and bad, there are people in the middle who are good and bad."

Hedayati said because of the division in today's society, people are falling out of touch with each other. He said a stigma tends to exist about those who live in the words, the mountains, the South or in seclusion.

"But that's the backbone of America," he said, adding that through this film, he wants to show people that good people exist everywhere, including both sides of the political aisle.

"Not all Republicans are bad, not all Democrats are bad, and that's what I think this movie is looking to push," Hedayati said.

While the film takes the protagonists on the road, Hedayati said he knew they would end up in Idaho, where he'd spent six months in Porthill while writing another project. He said the people he met and the friends he made during that time were not only the most colorful, but the friendliest.

With the main "Karma Bums" characters headed to Canada to start fresh and needing fake passports, Hedayati turned to those friends to help with his film.

"I came to the conclusion that I'll never meet people so colorful again. Whether I agree or disagree with their politics, the beauty of it was that they made it irrelevant," he said.

Brandon O'Dell, who plays one of the leads, said being a part of the film was an eye-opening and amazing experience. O'Dell said he quit his full-time job to pursue the film with longtime friend Hedayati. They'd made several short films and practiced "gonzo" acting on the streets of Los Angeles, acting out "intense" scenes in public places to perfect their craft.

Being on the road and being a part of the tight-knit crew made for a memorable experience, O'Dell said.

"Every day I would wake up, I felt just invigorated," he said. "Just so much love was around, too … we're very passionate and we wanted to do everything we possibly could to make the best movie possible."

Being able to tell stories that represent a fresh voice, his generation and his culture are important to him, Hedayati said.

"Everyone's familiar with Hollywood being a tough place to break into," he said. "Filmmaking is [like] being given the opportunity of having the most intimate one-on-one conversation with an audience member. That's the power of what we're trying to do."

Hedayati said he wants to be a part of what he sees as a renaissance in the industry — one of entertainment, philosophy and art.

"I know that if the soul exists, then we have to be doing something worthy of it," he said.

He said he sees this as a way to show people in his generation things they might not know about through research and reading. With so many things people are missing out on, he said he hopes to be a small benefactor of those missing pieces.

A new generation of storytellers is emerging, Hedayati said, wanting to tell more than the same stories often favored by big studio executives.

"We're all getting kind of frustrated with the content that we're just flooding our brains with, that aren't doing much to help to expand our brains, or to make us more loving," he said. "There's just so much content out there that it's not art anymore. It's just content."

Hedayati has always had an artistic bent and love of painting and writing, among other creative endeavors. As a young University of Southern California student, he watched "Warrior" with Tom Hardy.

"It hit me that night and the next day I started [in filmmaking] and just went full force into it and haven't stopped since," he said.

Hedayati premiered "Karma Bums" at the Sandpoint Theater in mid-January. The cast felt it was important to share the film with locals who acted in the film and helped make it possible.

Hedayati has entered "Karma Bums" in film festivals, including one in which it did well. He's hoping to get it into a larger festival and sell the film so more people can see it.

"Karma Bums" was shot on a shoestring budget by today's standards. Hedayati said he knew that, by taking the movie on the road, he could tell the story he wanted at an affordable cost. He said people in beautiful places lended their minds and settings to the film.

"We had almost no sets in the movie," Hedayati said. "The best way I can think of combating [not] having a big studio is utilizing nature."

The film features more than 200 locations, including the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park and more. The natural beauty of the country moves the narrative forward.

The days were long and the hours were grueling, but it was worth it.

"You finally say 'Action!' and you have, like, 30 seconds and you're all just completely in the moment, in the zone, feeling alive," Hedayati said. "That's the best part of it. And every time the camera turns on, that's the high we all feel."



A scene from the new independent movie, "Karma Bums" shot at the Grand Canyon.



The cast and crew of "Karma Bums" pose for a group photo during filming.



A scene from the new independent movie, "Karma Bums".



Keon Hedayati, left, watches crew film a scene from his new independent movie, "Karma Bums".



William Cross Van Horn in a scene from the new independent movie, "Karma Bums". A portion of the film was shot in the Porthill area in Boundary County.



A scene from the new independent movie, "Karma Bums". A portion of the film was shot in the Porthill area in Boundary County.



The poster for the new independent movie, "Karma Bums".