Filmmaker Gretl Claggett both wrote and directed a short film/narrative pilot called “Stormchaser.”
I’m not sure which Midwestern state is portrayed in this 27 minute film, but the license plate said Missouri, so I’ll take a wild guess that it was, indeed, Missouri.
Gretl’s indie film, which might morph into a pilot if all goes well, won the AMC Networks’ Best Female Creator Award at the Stareable Fest 2020 and is traveling throughout the festival circuit now. She will be my guest on my podcast Weekly Wilson on November 19th at 7 p.m. (CDT) talking about this film and her burgeoning career. The film will be screening at Film Girl Film Festival in Milwaukee November 13th through November 20th.
So, what is the plot of “Stormchaser”?
I expected it to be up-close-and-personal information on tornadoes and their devastating effects on those trapped in them.
Not the case.
“Stormchaser” is about Bonnie Blue (Mary Birdsong of “The Descendants”), who grew up chasing tornadoes with her dad and now is making a statement for female empowerment. She’s trapped in a demeaning job as a sales person for Flip Smith’s shingles and siding business, where “Flip the Switch” is the go-to phrase for the sales people. (Nice acting on the part of Stephen Plunkett, who has been recognized at several film festivals.)
The film begins with a young Bonnie sliding into the cab of the truck next to her father as they seek to chase a tornado, described as “a gift from the infinite universe.” They encounter “a great river of air” and are off to the races. Later, a radio preacher is heard burbling about “a visual manifestation of turmoil just beneath the surface.” By that point, the turmoil has pretty much broken through to the outside world.
Oddly enough, I wrote this review in my basement (hoping I would not lose power and the internet while working) during a tornado warning for the Chicago area and Illinois on 11/10/2020, which lasted until 3 p.m. It is a classic gesture of serendipity that I was actually hunkered down in my basement avoiding the possible consequences of a tornado while watching “Stormchaser.”
The film becomes a story about a woman of a certain age—only female in a male-dominated workplace—standing up for her rights. She’s disconnected, up against a recession, and facing down a boss (Stephen Plunkett of “The Mend”) who deserves everything that comes to him in the course of the film.
Mary Birdsong (“The Descendants”) portrays Bonnie Blue and does a fine job. Plunkett won Best Actor awards for his role as Flip Smith at the Grove Film Festival (New Jersey) and the cast won Best Ensemble Cast at the Richmond International Film Festival. Plunkett also was nominated as Best Actor at the Idyllwild Film Festival.
Filmmaker Gretl Claggett said, “I created ‘Stormchaser’ as a darkly funny allegory, in which the main characters represent different facets of our sociopolitical system, from the Old America and culture of entitlement to the changing face and values of a New America struggling to find its way.”
Tune in on November 19th at 7 p.m. (CDT) when Gretl and I talk about “Stormchaser” and her past and future film projects.