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Shooting Utopia
David Cook originally set his novel in Utopia, Texas because he loved the metaphor of the name. But when he visited the tiny Texas Hill Country town, he discovered the reality of it was even more intriguing than what he had imagined. With the slogan, "an ideally perfect place,” Utopia was a natural paradise, crisscrossed with towering Live Oaks, bubbling streams and hometown spirit. Its population of just a few hundred people were spread out on old-fashioned working ranches and the heart of it all was the local 9-hole golf course – which became the "Links of Utopia” in the book – opened in 2001 and situated in a thought-provoking way right next to a cemetery.

"I turned to Utopia because of the name but I hoped to find much more and when I got there I truly did. I found so much more in part because there's so much less there -- less noise, less commotion and less stress!” explains Cook. "You can sit in Utopia every night and see the stars as you've never seen them before. It's a healing place and it was a gift to discover it.”

From the beginning, the filmmakers knew that shooting in Utopia was an absolute necessity. "Utopia is not something you can create,” muses Berman. "We had to go to Utopia and it was amazing for each and every one us. Duvall even mentioned that he thought it was the most beautiful set he'd ever been on in his career.”

For Matt Russell, a big part of the film was taking the time to show small-town America the way it really is, full of history, cultural riches and people with a lot of traditional wisdom and knowledge to share. The people of Utopia, many of whom participated in some way in the filming, helped to make that a reality.

"The film avoids the usual stereotypes of country bumpkins,” the director notes. "We spent a lot of time really getting to know the people of Utopia and the way they lead their lives. We hung out in their cafes, attended their local church, fly-fished and played lots of golf with them – all so we could represent the town as accurately as possible. In return, they welcomed us with open arms and gave their whole hearts to helping us in any way, which was very, very moving.”

"The same way that David Cook was inspired to write about Utopia after he visited, our cast and crew were equally inspired,” adds Berman. "You get the feeling it's the kind of place a story like this could still happen in this day and age.”

It was also the kind of place that seemed to inspire cast and crew to do it justice. "Everyone, from our caterer to the film crew to the actors, put their whole hearts into this,” sums up Berman, "which made it a magical experience.”

Concludes the director: "Something special happened in Utopia where we found a kind of friendship and a family feeling that was unique. It was wonderful to hear Robert Duvall, who has worked on something like 150 feature films, say that he'd never been treated as well before.”


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