In Donavon Warren’s feature film, Wheels, two suicidal paraplegic junkies hustle their way through the city streets trying to find a reason to live. Ted Wioncek III went on an adventure with writer/director/actor Warren and explored the world of Wheels. Now streaming on Amazon, and other digital platforms worldwide.
Blood drips down my best friend Carl’s face as he lies on the ground, trying to figure out what just happened. Under his breath, he mutters, “there ain’t s**t on TV.” He rubs as much of the blood out of his eyes as he can. He yells, “I f*****g hate Covid!” My other friend Todd screams, “I told you, you can’t f*****g borrow the BluRay. Rent it on Amazon”. But Carl isn’t having it. Carl stumbles to his feet, struggling to get any kind of a direction from Todd. Carl screams, “I really f*****g hate Covid!” and runs toward Todd, tackling him like a linebacker. The two wrestle to the ground like mad dogs fighting over a piece of steak. Finally, I separate them from each other, thinking to myself, how could something like this happen? 2020 has been crazy enough? Screams of vulgarity echo throughout the now broken-up party. The Blu-Ray lies on the ground. I am tempted to take it, but I want no part of what just happened. After quarantining with these two for over a month, I need to break free. I grab a quick snapshot of the Blu-Ray, so as to not forget the title, “Wheels.” Got it. I’m out of here.
The whole way home, I kept thinking about the insanity of what had just happened. Carl was right about one thing. I f*****g hate Covid too. When will this end? Are things ever going to get better? Is this where we are headed, storing up our prized possessions like squirrels to nuts? What is “Wheels”? I had to know for myself. Was this movie really that good? Were my filmmaker friends that stir-crazy from just one month of quarantining? Maybe a little bit of both? Perhaps. I arrive home, put the car in park, and enter my front door. I ask Alexa to locate Wheels, which she informs me is available “on Amazon Prime streaming and on Blu-Ray.” Her monotone expression gives me the impression that even she is familiar with his work and remains leery of those who are not… yet.
“…Donavon’s go-getter energy quickly takes over the abandoned lot, and suddenly the tumbleweeds vanish…”
Five minutes into Wheels, I get what all the fuss is about. Thirty minutes in, I am transfixed. 115 minutes pass… I wait for the credits to conclude as I reach for my cell phone, which I have not touched this entire time, a herculean feat due to the work on the screen. I quickly Google “who wrote the screenplay for Wheels.” After all, I can’t ask Alexa. It was embarrassing enough the first time. Once again, technology sets me straight in a matter of milliseconds. The writer is Donavon Warren, which I am already fairly familiar with as he is the lead in the film. He is also the co-director and producer, which he self-distributed by his production company, Loaded Dice Films. I shoot off an email in hopes that this overnight sensation with over twenty years of experience will have time to chat. I haven’t been affected by a film like that for the longest time, and I have to know if it was a fluke? Is this guy the real deal? Or, after having exhausted the claptrap that is Netflix, has it just been so long since I have seen a half-decent film?
After almost a year, finally, it’s 7 pm Los Angeles Time. Donavon opens the door, not able to contain his big smile under his mask. His office is modest yet inviting. He offers me a latte, and off we go. Right in, he says, “This is a great opportunity for my company and me, they are shooting very few productions right now, and there is a never-ending increase in streaming demand. Which will be great for our upcoming films.” “This is a beautiful studio with a lot of history. Let me give you a tour.”
We now walk around the now dark “The Lot Studios,” which was built in 1920, exactly 100 years ago. The studio is now empty and quiet. There are no movie stars walking around. No big productions. No one is here. There is an aura of foreboding that leaves me unsettled. Donavon’s go-getter energy quickly takes over the abandoned lot, and suddenly the tumbleweeds vanish before us as he continues, “The same year this studio was built, the Spanish Flu killed nearly 50 million people. This is not the first time the film business has gone through a pandemic. It took about 2 years for the industry to recover from the Spanish Flu. I don’t see it being any different now with coronavirus. I just want to make sure I have the content ready before anyone else does.” Talk about a ‘glass is half full’ take on things, I tell myself. “And the quiet,” I ask. “It gives me time to focus and concentrate on my projects.” At this point, his optimism, a trait few in Hollywood possess and even less can fake, begins to win me over.