Sara Radle was a major part of the Deep Ellum music scene in the late ’90s. After fronting the poppy-punk trio Lucy Loves Schroeder, playing all the instruments in a solo project called Fred Savage Fanclub and running the Jeez Louise record label, she left for Los Angeles in 2005. She was a member of the Rentals, started by founding Weezer member Matt Sharp, and went solo in 2008.
Although Radle has stayed busy in music with various bands, she’s also spent a lot of time acting and directing. Her feature film debut, Eleven Hundred to Lubbock, will premiere Monday night at the Dallas International Film Festival at the Magnolia Theatre. There will be a second screening Tuesday afternoon.
“I’ve always processed grief or different challenges in my life through creativity,” Radle says. “In the past, that’s always been songwriting.”
While going through a writer’s block with her music a handful of years ago, she decided to write a screenplay inspired by the death of a friend.
“Before I knew it, I had an outline, and then I had a script and rewrites,” she says.
She co-produced with her friend Craig Partamian. The pair met once a week for two years to work on preproduction. Then they created a 10-minute version to showcase what the eventual film would be.
Radle cast herself in the lead role, in which a closed-off, grieving sister decides to honor her brother’s memory by running a relay from Los Angeles to Lubbock to spread his ashes at Buddy Holly’s memorial. The bulk of the story is about committing to the journey and what happens in between the cities.
As producer, director, screenwriter, lead actor and editor, so much of the film depended on Radle. She used things she learned in music to help her.
“In an overall sense, I kept referring to it as ‘punk-rock filmmaking’ because I come from the DIY background,” she says.
Radle knows about doing everything herself to get something started and finished instead of waiting on a record label to green-light a project.
“I took that theme as a natural segue to film,” she says.
Radle and Partamian seized the moment.
“Initially it was going to be, ‘What’s the simplest way we can do it just so we can get it done and not be another person in this town that’s waiting around for somebody to give them an opportunity?’” she says.
Radle wrote her script based on locations she could use for little or no money. She filmed in the German pub she worked at for almost 10 years and in Partamian’s home.
But one needs a permit to film in Los Angeles, even in his or her own home. The pair had many shots to do outdoors, and they were challenging to obtain, but they got what they needed — even if that meant stealing shots without a permit.
“The good thing about having such a small crew was we could be more incognito for certain things,” Radle says.
By the time they got to Lubbock for filming, restrictions were far fewer.
“Once we were out of L.A., everything was a breeze,” she says. “I have to say, the city of Lubbock was such a pleasure to work with.”
Although Radle grew up in San Antonio, Dallas is her second home, so she’s happy to come back after 14 years to present Eleven Hundred to Lubbock.
“It’s cool,” she says. “I’m really looking forward to it.”
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She’s already busy on other project. She’s acted in many commercials over the last few years, some of which aired nationwide, including one for Quicken Loans in which she played guitar. She says acting in commercials allows her to be creative, make a decent wage and observe filmmaking techniques.
Radle recently started an alt-country band, has plans to make more films and is developing a sketch comedy series that might be on TV or on the web.
“I want to keep making films,” she says. “It really was a lifelong dream of mine to write a film and direct and star in it and write all the music. And I did it. It’s still a little bit surreal to me. So now what?”
Eleven Hundred to Lubbock screens at 7:35 p.m. Monday and 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Magnolia Theatre.