Corbin Bernsen rocketed to star status nearly 25 years ago when he took on the role of divorce attorney Arnie Becker on LA Law. This year, Bernsen releases Rust, a film that proves the actor is equally adept as a screenwriter and director.
I got to meet Bernsen, who is known to another generation of fans as Shawn Spencer’s father Henry in the USA Network’s Psych series, when he showed up at last September’s Christian Music Broadcaster’s Association’s annual Momentum conference in Orlando. He was there to promote Rust, a movie he had written, directed, and produced. The title refers to a disease that destroys crops.
The story revolves around James Moore, a preacher whose faith is put to the test when his childhood friend, Travis, is accused of, and subsequently admits to, starting a fire that kills a well-liked family of four. As James searches for the truth, he reconnects with his beliefs, his family, his friends, and with God.
Rust is well acted and well directed. The pace of the story lumbers a bit, but the tale warrants the slower tempo as Rust gradually exposes a deeper, underlying lesson. It reminded me of Lars and the Real Girl, which also moved slowly. Before you know it, you’re invested in these characters, and you are comfortable rocking along in the movie’s natural, if slower, rhythm.
The making of Rust is a tale worthy of a movie in itself.
In 2005, Kyle MacDonald made headlines with his One Red Paperclip project. MacDonald proposed that he could “trade up” in a series of transactions until he had exchanged his one red paperclip for a “house. Or an island. Or a house on an island.”
MacDonald was soon making trades and attracting nearly 7 million people to his blog. That’s when Bernsen took notice. The actor was planning to produce a new movie, and he saw piggybacking onto MacDonald’s established fan base as an easy marketing move for the film.
Bernsen contacted MacDonald and offered him a part in a film as a “trade.” Initially, MacDonald declined.
Soon, however, MacDonald found himself with a KISS snow globe. MacDonald had also learned that there was a small town in Saskatchewan, Canada, interested in getting into the movie business as a way to promote commerce. MacDonald recognized an opportunity and went back to Bernsen to see if his movie offer was still good.
MacDonald traded the KISS snow globe to Bernsen, an avid collector who already owned more than 7,000 snow globes. In return, MacDonald received a part in Donna on Demand, a movie to be produced by Bernsen. MacDonald offered the role to the Town of Kipling. Auditions were held, and Kipling resident Nolan Hubbard won the part. In exchange, MacDonald received the deed to a house at 503 Main Street, Kipling, Saskatchewan, Canada. In 14 transactions, MacDonald had succeeded in trading from one errant red paper clip to a three- bedroom house.
The trades may have been over, but Bernsen’s connection with Kipling was just beginning. Bernsen’s next movie would be Rust, and he wasn’t just giving one part to someone in Kipling. He was partnering with the town. Holding auditions for about 300 people, most of the parts in Rust were cast with residents of Kipling. Bernsen credits the assistance of nearly 500 people in Kipling with helping him to get Rust made.
Brought to life on $250,000 (Canadian), Rust‘s production values are comparable to movies with budgets many times that amount. Bernsen’s eye for imagery and symbolism is meticulous. His close attention to detail is what sets Rust apart from most independent films. Bernsen said he always felt he could take any person and, cast in the right part, he could turn them into an actor. With Rust, he proved his point. Much of Rust‘s casting can only be described as inspired. Bernsen’s direction of these actors, most inexperienced, drew out the realistic emotions and reactions so necessary to low-action dramas like Rust.
Rust is one of those hidden gems that exceeds expectations. I highly recommend Rust for your next family movie night. Be sure to check out the special features on the DVD as well. Bernsen has included exclusive shorts, providing insights into the making and motivation behind Rust.