A Simple Indie Film Filled with Tears, Drama and Silence in “Lotawana”

By Mike Szymanski

Sometimes a true “Film” is about filmmaking, not the dialogue. A lot of silence permeates this moody, picturesque film that’s an impressive first feature by Trevor Hawkins.

Every scene, every camera shot, every moment is a piece of art, framed in nature and natural surroundings as we follow this couple who live on a sailboat, and take life where the wind send them.

It’s not a wonder that Hawkins is an accomplished and renown wildlife and adventure filmmaker, and is known for his work on National Geographic, Redbull, ESPN and the Outdoor Channel.

It’s also not a surprise that Hawkins is a long-time resident of Missouri’s Lake Lotawana so it’s appropriate his first film takes place there, in full loving glory of the natural surroundings. The movie is completely self-financed with loans.

Follow this young couple who live on a sailboat and take a carefree journey together, but get caught up in life’s obstacles.

“I was young, and life was already passing me by,” says Forrest (played by Todd Blubaugh). He and his girlfriend Everly, played by Nicola Collie make the decision to live a life as they see it and not play by the rules of society.

What makes this a true movie is not the story or what happens, as dramatic and shocking as it may get, but the silent moments, the peaceful moments, and the times that Forrest and Everly spend alone and saying nothing. That’s true filmmaking, and it’s pleasant to watch because of that alone.

They’re not a couple that is particularly cute but they are stunning in their relationship and that makes them all the more beautiful.

This connection between the two lead characters (there really isn’t a need for anyone else), is so palpable that it’s to the point of being voyeuristic. And, that ended up being true because during the filming, the real-life actors literally fell in love off-screen and married and are still together. What is completely ironic about that is that another actress was originally cast for the film, but dropped out a week into filming.

In the film they don’t have money, they don’t know what to do, but they have their sailboat, and each other. She doesn’t have a good relationship with her family, as we can tell by a phone call she makes to home. He doesn’t have much ambition, and is generally bored with his life.

Their talks are not particularly deep, but when they do talk, it’s important and prophetic.

Another irony about the actual shooting is that actor Blubaugh wasn’t a sailor and the first time he captained a ship was only minutes before filming began after a 15-minute crash course on sailing.

Yet, he looks like a pretty adept boatsman, and they did their own stunts. And so did the crew of about 10 in the production, and Hawkins almost died while shooting a scene in an underwater cave.

A lot of this off-screen drama is captured in a documentary that’s even more dramatic than the film, in some parts, called “At the Helm: The Making of ‘Lotawana'” which will be release in February along with the finished film.

Showing in select theaters on February 3rd, 2022. The movie will be release on all major platforms on Feb. 22, 2022 after a short theatrical run.


Rating: 9/10

Director: Trevor Hawkins

Style: Drama

Website: LotawanaMovie.com