For director Tricia Brock, the best thing about making a feature film is the opportunity to screen the finished product for the people who helped her along the way.
After 13 years of hard work and dedication, Brock will be here when her movie “Killer Diller” opens in Columbia on Monday at the Missouri Theatre. The chance to show the movie in her hometown is a thrill, Brock said, especially because she shot it in mid-Missouri last summer.
“That was an unbelievable time in my life,” Brock said. “I remember walking out of the radio station at Stephens College after shooting all day. I looked across the street at Boone County Hospital, and I thought — that’s where I was born. I’m not sure too many directors have had that experience. I loved the synchronicity.”
“Killer Diller,” which was filmed in Fayette, Columbia and Boonville, is based on the novel by Clyde Edgerton. It’s the story of a talented car thief and an autistic piano player who meet a group of halfway house convicts and transform themselves into the Killer Diller Blues Band. Brock was attracted to the novel because of its characters and their stories.
“I identified with a bunch of losers figuring out a way to win,” Brock said. “I also love blues and blues music is the glue that holds the characters together.”
Brock, the oldest of four children, grew up in the small boot-heel town of Charleston. One of her family’s favorite outdoor activities was taking float trips with members of their extended family. Brock’s mother, Patty Brock, said Tricia was 2 when the family went on their first camping trip.
“There was probably 35 of us,” Patty Brock said. “We would gather at some big camping spot and we had innertubes for everybody. It was great fun at the end just to see who fell out and who made it. After the screenings of ‘Killer Diller,’ all of us are having another family reunion down in Charleston. It’s very, very exciting.”
Brock’s family eventually moved to Columbia, where she attended Hickman High School and then MU. She was a member of Chi Omega sorority and studied advertising. Shortly before graduating from MU in 1972, Brock became interested in feature writing.
Hungry to get out into the world, Brock wanted to leave Columbia but decided to stay and attend MU’s journalism school.
“At first she thought she had to get out of town for college,” Patty Brock said. “Then after she graduated, she realized what a great attribute it was to have graduated from the MU’s School of Journalism. Sometimes you’re too close to something to realize it’s significant. It has helped her a lot on her way.”
After graduation, Brock moved to Colorado and worked for four years in the public relations department of the Aspen Ski Corp. She then moved to New York City, where she worked in advertising. She also worked on television specials with “Saturday Night Live” creator Lorne Michaels.
“I realized from being around ‘Saturday Night Live’ in the early years that the writers were the ones I completely respected and revered,” she said. “It was out of that experience and making my documentary film (“Rush,” which was filmed in 1979) that I really began writing.”
Brock did freelance production work throughout the 1980s before settling in Los Angeles. In 1991, three friends gave Brock the money to option “Killer Diller” and she began writing the screenplay. George Terbovich, who served as design consultant during all phases of production, said that he, along with Millie and Frank Paxton, provided the funding because of how Brock presented her ideas.
“It was her vision,” Terbovich said. “She had such a firm belief in the material and how it would translate to a screenplay. It’s about the truth and the values and the Midwestern slant on things that’s very real, as well as the core emotions that we all experience as human beings. She’s got all of those things in her movie.”
Brock is currently busy in Los Angeles discussing distribution plans for “Killer Diller” and considering her next project. She continues to write screenplays and hopes to shoot another movie in Missouri. In addition, she will be directing an episode of Showtime’s “The L Word” in September.
Although Los Angeles is her home now, “Killer Diller” helped show Brock that her Missouri roots have affected her career moves.
“My experiences and my childhood in a small town definitely influence the literature I’m attracted to,” Brock said. “I love Southern literature and stories that are more character-driven.”