Motorcycles rumble through the mountains around Durango, the riders take in the expansive vistas and navigate the winding roads. Later, they head into downtown Durango’s local watering holes, looking for adventure and maybe a little romance.
These are common scenes in Durango, especially during the Labor Day weekend when thousands of bikers come to the area for the annual biker rally.
If local resident Sarah Perkins and her supporters have their way, it will be something we can see on the big screen as well.
Perkins, who lives in Vallecito and grew up in Durango, has written a screenplay, and with her large network of support – including a 13-year friendship with the historic Boozefighters Motorcycle Club – hopes to have the film made in Durango.
“A Ladies Gentleman” is the story of Chase, a young mother who is trying to rebuild her life after leaving her abusive husband. She meets a motorcyclist at a Durango bar during the biker rally and begins to rediscover her life, only to have her world turned upside down and she is forced to confront the hard truths of her life.
Perkins said this screenplay took her 13 years to write.
“I’ve always been a writer,” she said. “I started my first script when I was 15.”
A chance meeting with members of the Boozefighters during the Biker Rally in 2002 at Scoot ’N Blues (where the Irish Embassy is now) gave her the connection to the club that blossomed into a long-lasting friendship and endorsement of the project.
“I got to experience them,” Perkins said. “They were so kind and the greatest people. It’s been so important to me for the last 13 years to have their support.”
The club’s endorsement of the film adds authenticity to the story, Perkins said, adding that when she began writing the script, she was torn between making up her own motorcycle club or trying to get in touch with real riders.
The Boozefighters formed in 1946 in California and has chapters all over the world.
“We’ll be using their vests with their patches, their history and their logo. It’s important to me, it’s important to the script because they’re a real motorcycle club,” she said. “And that’s where I started with the script: I was inspired to tell the story.”
Another chance meeting, in 2009, also got her connected with Philip A. Patterson and Ellen M. Hillers, filmmakers who between the two have worked in the industry for more than 35 years. They’ve been involved in films such as “Wolverine,” “The Mosquito Coast,” “Men on Black” and “12 Monkeys.”
Perkins said she met the two at the Four Corners Film Office and theirs has been an invaluable relationship, evident when watching the three interact: Their ease with each other speaks of a friendship that seems a lot older than it actually is.
“What’s so special to me is that we have made friends over the last nine years and now we’re business partners, as opposed to going straight into business together and becoming friends,” she said.
Perkins said the project has been challenging on many levels, and it has given her the opportunity to look within herself – and to not take herself too seriously.
“My biggest challenge, I think, has been personally, keeping tenacity and positivity: patience in one hand and tenacity in the other,” she said. “Nothing’s going to happen if I don’t make calls, but how do you not make too many calls?”
At times, she felt she was doing too much, but then she would also experience lulls during the process, Perkins said.
“I’d have down times where I wouldn’t even feel like making calls, I wouldn’t want to talk to anybody,” she said. “I couldn’t even think about the script stuff – I felt this lull. But then instead of feeling I wasn’t doing anything, I embraced it; I was so comfortable in it ... just knowing that everything is going to happen as it’s supposed to.”
Along with her friends and business network, Perkins also credits her husband, Robert, as her biggest supporter.
“I don’t believe that I would be where I am right now with the people who are involved if we weren’t supposed to move forward, so I have to keep that positive mindset,” she said. “Each step in this process has presented new obstacles, and I like a good challenge. I’m always ready to rise to the occasion, even when I’m not sure how ... I’ll find a way.”
Because this has been a long-term project, it has included countless revisions, including adding a little grit: “It was too sweet; it was a really sappy love story. It needed angst and drama.,” Perkins said. But, she added, it’s the modifications that make the writing process fun.
“To me, the beauty of writing is you can take one story, and you can take one little piece out of that story and then just go crazy with it,” she said.
As with most films, a big challenge to getting the movie made is financial, and this one is no different, something Perkins, Hillers and Patterson are hard at work on. Their goal is to start filming in Durango when motorcyclists come to town over the Labor Day weekend.
“This would be a $6 million to $8 million film, but we’re going to do it in La Plata County for $1.5 million,” she said.
And for Perkins, who would like to see all of her movies made in Durango, it’s about promoting the town and area she loves.
“This is my hometown. And I know that we do need tourism to survive,” she said. “For me, it’s just important to showcase our mountains.”