Anne Heche and Peter Facinelli are two of the stars of the disaster movie ensemble, 13 Minutes, which takes its characters on the spin of their lives when an F-5 tornado touches down in their tightly knit Oklahoma community.
It’s not the first disaster movie for Emmy winner Heche, who faced a formidable life-and-death challenge in 1997’s Volcano, in which she co-starred with Tommy Lee Jones. In 13 Minutes, she co-stars opposite country legend Trace Adkins, as a conservative and deeply religious couple trying to stay financially afloat as they face drought and other adverse conditions on their family farm. Their fondest hope that their adult son, Luke (Will Peltz), will eventually marry and have children to carry on the family tradition is dashed when the young man works up the courage to reveal he is gay and interested in pursuing his own path.
Meanwhile, a storm of another variety is brewing, as Brad (Facinelli), the local TV weatherman has to leave his wife, Kim (Amy Smart) and young deaf daughter behind as the storm approaches to get to the station to help prepare the community for what’s ahead. Two other storylines figure into this multi-faceted plot: a teenage girl (Sofia Vassilieva), is pregnant with the child of a married, older man, and has choose whether to have an abortion. She turns to her religious yet understanding mother (Thora Burch), a single mom, for advice. And a fourth storyline involves an immigrant motel chambermaid (Paz Vega) whose dream of buying her own home may be dashed when her illegal immigrant husband (Yancey Arias), a cowhand at a local ranch, requires expensive medical care.
The film is written and directed by Lindsay Gossling (Un Traductor), who set out to make a film about global issues in a microcosm of a small Midwestern community—from sexual orientation and homophobia, to disability, abortion, xenophobia, healthcare access and the farming crisis. With producer Travis Farncombe, who is certified storm chaser, she endeavored to make a film that was both visually authentic as a disaster movie as well as a heartfelt drama with characters that audiences could embrace.
Quiver Distribution’s 13 Minutes touches down in theaters Friday, Oct. 29 and On Demand and on Digital platforms Friday, Nov. 19.
Heche (Men in Trees) and Facinelli (the Twilight movies) were reached via Zoom to talk about 13 Minutes and being part of an ensemble where the audiences are deeply immersed and invested in the characters’ lives before disaster strikes and changes their world forever.
Angela Dawson: Have you been in a natural disaster, such as a tornado, hurricane or an earthquake?
Anne Heche: So, you’re not talking about morning breakfast with the kids before school?
Peter Facinelli: For the past two years, we all have been living in a disaster, right? My previous experience with a natural disaster was when I was driving an RV through Oklahoma and the sky turned completely dark. It was the middle of the day and you could smell in the air that it was about to pour down rain. I turned on the radio and (the announcer) said there was a tornado watch. At the time, I didn’t know the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning. But I was heading towards it and I could see the sky getting darker and darker, and it was terrifying. I pulled over to the side of the road and decided to turn around. I’m from New York, where we don’t have a lot of tornadoes, so it’s not something you’re prepared for. So, at the time, I didn’t know exactly what to do.
The film really does it justice because you can almost feel like your there. Lindsay (Gossling) did a really great job with that. If you watch this film, you’ll know what to do in case you’re in one of those situations where a tornado’s coming.
Heche: This was my second disaster film after Volcano. In real life, I’ve been on the other end of the phone of someone who’s experiencing a natural disaster, which I believe connects very well with Peter’s character. He’s trying to help viewers be safe, yet those closest to him (his family) are the most in danger. I was on a Facetime call with someone who was in a hurricane in Shreveport, La., and watched as they were huddled behind a kitchen counter. I saw the sliding glass door shattering behind them. I’ve never felt so terrified and helpless. I think that’s what runs through 13 Minutes—watching each character wonder if they can take control or not take control. It’s hard to watch someone going through something and not being able to help them.
All the characters in 13 Minutes have those moments when they realize they can or can’t help the people they love and care about. For (my character) Tammy, she has an opportunity to save a soul and instead she chooses to do something else. That’s what makes this movie interesting: people make choices that aren’t necessarily those that we would make. That sums up why I wanted to do this movie.
Facinelli: What Anne says is so true—the sense of feeling a lack of control during a disaster. Like, in LA, the one thing you always think you can count on is the ground under you, but in an earthquake, you can’t even count on that. So, when you’re going through an earthquake or fires—we have these wildfires all the time, now—it’s almost like the weather is betraying you, and you’re sitting there thinking, “What do I do?” because you feel so small and not in control. It’s terrifying because your life is not in your hands anymore. It’s in a bigger picture.
Watching this film and seeing these stories, which are all separate but then they intertwine, is like a microcosm of our situation with COVID. We’re all separate but we’re all connected at the same time.
Dawson: Did you shoot this pre-pandemic?
Facinelli: Right before. We wrapped about a month before everything shut down.
Dawson: Did you have any weird weather events while you were shooting in Oklahoma?
Heche: No, but I think they’d had a storm come through about a week before we started. Lindsay showed me a vacant lot where a gas station had previously been. There were signs up.
Facinelli: A lot can change in 13 minutes; that’s what this film is about. I was talking to a set PA who told me she lost her house three times during tornadoes. If you don’t have insurance, you have to start all over. You have to rely on help from friends and family, and that’s hard.
Dawson: Anne, your character, Tammy, is worried about the future of her family farm and how to continue operating it. She’s also in denial about her son being gay. Could you talk about delving into that character?
Heche: The fact of the matter is we’re all complicated people. One of the things that I like about this movie is that my story was set up to be one that would create a lot of stir in how she reacts and responds to the dangers around her and how she reacts to her family members. Typically, in these types of disaster films, we don’t think about what’s happening to these people before the disaster but in 13 Minutes, we have a story about this mother whose son comes out right before and (my character) doesn’t believe him or what his sexuality is.
You don’t typically think about the character beforehand, yet I think one of the fun things about this movie is that after this community comes together, it’s still going to go on, and what we’re left with is the emotions of each one of the stories we’ve seen, because nothing is solved when the 13 minutes are over. What this movie does is allow us to remember that these are human beings who have gone through something and their lives have been ripped apart, and that aftermath is what will resonate with audiences. There’s a real heart connection to these people which is something we can connect with as we all are going through this (pandemic).
As a society, a community and a nation, we can learn from that. People are going through things before the disaster and still, after the disaster, we need to get together within our communities and help out. You don’t need a hurricane to understand that what we need to do is help each other to get through what has been a very difficult time for everyone globally as well as those right next door.
Facinelli: That’s perfect. All I can do is put an exclamation point on what Anne said.
Dawson: Do you feel comfortable going back to work? Is it now second nature doing the safety protocols on set?
Facinelli: Yeah. I’m doing a new film in Texas, starting next week. I’ve been shooting films during COVID. The protocols have been very strict and we got through it safely. We didn’t have to shut down and nobody got sick.
Heche: That’s a success story because that hasn’t been the case for everybody over the past year.
Facinelli: It can be done safely if it’s done correctly. There are ways to get back to work and feel safe. I’m excited that things are starting to open up. I hope it continues in that direction and that it doesn’t slip back in the other direction.
Dawson: How about you, Anne? What are you up to?
Heche: I started a podcast (Better Together) this year with my friend, Heather Duffy.
Facinelli: I was on it. It’s fantastic.
Heche: Peter was one of our defining guests. That is one of the beautiful things that’s come out of COVID, which is for me to work with Heather. We reach out to storytellers to tell us how to know more and be more and create more kindness in the world.
I just got back from (shooting a film in) Texas. I like the people a lot there. To be one of the blessed actors who got work during COVID, and have this movie coming out, this was a real feat. Just getting (13 Minutes) edited was tricky because Lindsay wasn’t able to be in the same room as (the editor). Sometimes we forget about the things that got in the way and how we had to change and shift things. When we create things together, it really does help to be in the same room. That’s what adds to the specificity of this film—they had a lot of time to work on it and they had a lot to overcome. That’s what this movie is about—we shall overcome.
Facinelli: You either live through it and adapt or you don’t. In this film, there are storylines where there are people growing through this and helping each other, and there are some people who aren’t. It’s not the typical Hollywood movie where everyone’s storyline wraps up. It’s true to life and it’s grounded.
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