Maxie and Sid can do it today. Get clean, that is. They’re two teen addicts roaming the streets of Eugene and Springfield, bogged down by drug addiction and the traumas of their early lives. The two couldn’t be more different: Maxie’s family is wealthy, wholesome and from the hills of Eugene. Sid’s is trauma-torn and from a Springfield trailer park. Through the judgment-free lens of director Jarrett Bryant, viewers watch Maxie and Sid’s relationship develop through the highs and lows of their addiction over the course of a tumultuous weekend.
“Maxie,” a Drama film released on April 29, 2021, was filmed in the early days of the pandemic by Bryant, a Eugene-based director. Filming started on February 15, 2020, but when COVID hit, the production was shut down for three weeks. Bryant then went through a massive rewrite, cutting characters and scenes that involved more people. “When I rewrote, I wanted to drive home the idea of a relationship based on convenience rather than actual love or affection,” he said.
“Maxie” changed the way I look at Eugene. As a college student, my world pretty much spans from Franklin Boulevard to West 24th Avenue. But “Maxie” opened my eyes to the parts of Eugene I don’t see, and what I ignore because I’m uncomfortable looking at it.
The role COVID plays in “Maxie” almost makes it a period piece. Downtown Eugene was deserted, gas prices were notably low and almost no one was out and about. Bryant incorporated the pandemic into the script as almost a throwaway, because to Maxie and Sid, news about COVID means next to nothing.
“You as an audience member will realize that, yeah, you’re right, most homeless people aren’t watching CNN,” Bryant said. “I just wanted to touch on it, sprinkle it in, but not have it be a major thrust in the film.”
Despite its small presence in the film, COVID is apparent in the background of the film, giving it a haunting tone.
One of my favorite parts of “Maxie” was the slew of Eugene and Springfield landmarks that were scattered throughout. Seeing these Easter eggs made me feel involved in the movie; it was almost like I was traversing Eugene with Maxie and Sid. The Eugene Library, downtown district and riverfront are all featured. Bryant was particular about the places he shot, driving to locations days or even weeks ahead to scout out the best spots for each scene. “Henry [the director of photography] and I would drive around for hours scouting out locations, angles, mood and what time we wanted to reach the spot before we shot, ”Bryant said.
Eugene locations also played a large role in how actors in “Maxie” executed their roles. Malakhai Schnell played Sid’s older brother Nathan, a fresh out of jail 20-something who is indebted to some sketchy dudes from Eugene. He explained that when doing guerilla filmmaking or smaller indie films in public locations, it’s normal for people to come up and ask about the film. “But during ‘Maxie,’ it was actually people coming up to ask about our two leads, who were dressed as homeless youth, and offer genuine help,” Schnell said.
Miles Dixon, who played Maxie in the film, incorporated the Eugene landscape into his preparation for his character. “I would go to the [homeless] encampment under the bridge in Whitaker and just try to fit in, ”Dixon said. When he walked around downtown Eugene in character, often talking or shouting to himself, people would approach him and offer assistance.
Schnell had his own way of getting into character. “I did a lot of research on the way people get into a lifestyle where they start having more and more criminal activity, especially people that end up murdering someone, to try to get into the headspace,” he said. Schnell’s research included watching documentaries and reading articles about true crime.
Bryant nailed the physical characterization of Maxie and Sid though strong makeup and costume choices. Addiction is sometimes glamorized in popular media, but Bryant didn’t shy away from giving his leads unwashed hair and yellow teeth.
“A crucial part of playing Maxie was feeling really lonely, and I think the physical setup helped with that,” Dixon said.
Fake blood was used to create acne splotches on the teen’s skin, and players swished food coloring in their mouths to botch their teeth. “I remember Jarett showed up with baby oil, and he was like ‘I’m putting it in your hair,’” Hope Garcia said. Garcia played Desirre, another young addict in the movie. “I loved feeling all gross and gnarly because I performed my best that way,” she said.
“The whole idea behind [Maxie] was to show the underbelly of Eugene and Springfield, but that’s any city, USA, ”Bryant said. “There’s always that undercurrent that people don’t see because we just drive by it. You’re going to work, or you’re going to school, or whatever, and until it affects us directly, we don’t acknowledge it. “