Columbia-bred director anxious for film opening

Hickman graduate’s ‘Killer Diller’ debut hits theaters today.
Friday, April 28, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:41 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

After nearly 10 years of working and waiting, Tricia Brock’s dream project is about to hit theaters. Her first major movie, “Killer Diller,” opens today at Stadium Theatres in Columbia, as well as select theaters in St. Louis, Kansas City, Memphis and Nashville.

Brock, director and screenwriter of “Killer Diller,” grew up in Columbia and graduated from Hickman High School. Now, she has returned to her roots for the film. The movie was filmed in Fayette, even though the novel is set in a fictional North Carolina town and Brock currently resides in Pacific Palisades, Calif.

“It’s my mother’s fault,” Brock says. “She kept telling me about this small college town in the rolling hills. I saw it and just thought ‘this is exactly the town.’”

In a sense, Missouri played a role in Brock’s decision to direct the film. She says that growing up in the area affected the kind of stories she wants to tell and to whom she wants to tell them.

“There is a realness to people from the Midwest, and there is a certain amount of authenticity that I am now attracted to in movies and in storytelling,” Brock says.

When she originally read Clyde Edgerton’s novel, Brock says, she immediately felt a connection.

“I discovered the novel and completely fell in love with it,” she says. “I just sat in my garage, which at the time was my office, and said, ‘This is the kind of movie I’d love to see, the kind of story I think people where I am from would respond to.’”

Brock realized this would not be a typical Hollywood movie and, therefore, would be difficult to attract studio interest. “Killer Diller” cost less than $5 million.

“I’m very nervous, very excited,” Brock says. “I just hope people go. I think it’s a film that, to survive, is going to have to sink or swim on word of mouth.”

“Killer Diller” tells the story of a young thief who is sentenced to a halfway house where he forms a band to play hymns, recruiting musically gifted felons along the way. With an autistic pianist and female singer, the Killer Diller Blues Band hits the road.

The movie stars Fred Willard, William Lee Scott and Lucas Black and includes music by Blues legend Taj Mahal and Grammy winner Keb’ Mo’. Brock says she is lucky to have such talent in her first movie.

“I would like to say it’s a combination of me, my passion, the material and my ability to beg,” Brock says of recruiting her cast. “They read the script and responded how I did.”

Brock, who studied advertising journalism at MU, says she always felt she would leave Missouri to feed her passion for the world. Since moving west, she has directed episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy,” “The L Word,” “Huff” and an upcoming episode of “Deadwood.” She is also writing two movies that take place in Missouri. But making it in the film industry hasn’t been easy.

“It took 10 years to get this movie made. I worked on ‘Killer Diller’ pretty much every day of my life for three years,” she says. “I was penniless, to say the least.”

For now, though, Brock says life is pretty good. Though opening day brings bouts of anxiety and stress, this is the moment she has been waiting for.

“As soon as I could leave, I was out of here,” Brock says. “It was a very fascinating synchronicity that being gone all these years, I would come back to make my first major film.”

Brock says people throughout mid-Missouri have supported her endeavors so far, though the true test of their support will be seen in box office sales over the next few weeks.

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