Thunder Road gives us an intimate look at a eulogy. We talked to director, screenwriter and actor Jim Cummings about his touching short.
Thunder Road focuses on the emotional farewell speech by a grown-up son at his mother’s funeral. A scene which could be part of a longer feature film, but Cummings chose the short form quite deliberately. “I’m a huge fan of short stories and giving the tip of the iceberg while revealing the rest in subtle ways.”
The film’s main character, a grieving man who is obviously at a loss with his emotions, was developed gradually. Cummings first thought of the idea when he heard Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Thunder Road’ on the radio and thought it would be a good song to play at a funeral. He fantasized about how this could be screwed up, and a character was born. “I was driving a lot for work and rehearsed it in my car. The sadness and comedy came about by making it up in character.” Cummings plays the lead himself. “I was the best actor around for the part – I clearly don’t know many actors”, he jokes.
Thunder Road leaves out any background. The audience simply becomes part of the mourning group at the funeral, whose facial expressions and reactions to the slightly uncomfortable eulogy remain unseen. “That was up for debate throughout the production”, Cummings says looking back. “People wanted to see how the audience was responding and that would be such a terrible idea. It would give our audience an idea of what they should be feeling, it would tell them whether they should be laughing or crying and that would ruin the film. Not showing the audience forces the short film’s audience to question what they are feeling, which is essential to this story.”