I love the plotline of a good story. Whether that develops into a book, a movie or both, they are equally captivating, especially when they are set in the Outer Banks. Several mainstream novels have been set, and some scenes even filmed, here in the OBX, most notably Nicholas Spark’s novel, Nights in Rodanthe staring Richard Gere and Diane Keaton.
However, no film has ever been set in, written, and directed by an Outer Banks native until the debut of The Peanut Butter Falcon late summer this year. Written and directed by Tyler Nilson, a native of Colington Island, and Michael Schwartz of California- the two have spun a magical tale of our hometown rooted in a blue-collar culture and an unlikely hero. Tyler and Michael were living in Los Angeles and volunteering at a drama camp for actors with disabilities when they met Zach Gottsagen, a talented actor with Down Syndrome. Taken with Zach’s enigmatic personality, they asked him about his future dreams in the industry and he stated that he would love to star in a feature film. Traditionally, Hollywood has had very few roles for actors with Down Syndrome, or other disabilities, and those that are cast are normally traditional actors that study intensely to portray a person with a disability for fear that an actor with Down’s Syndrome could not fulfill the duties of the role. When Tyler and Michael posed this predicament to Zach, his answer was “Well why don’t you guys write me a film then and I will star in it.” Thus was the rise of the Peanut Butter Falcon.
I’ve spend numerous hours researching the films inception from storyline to production, watched countless media circuits and interviews with the writers, the actors and the producers. I watched in awe the proof of concept film shot in Wanchese on a raft with a handsewn bedsheet sail to prove that Zach himself could live up to the role of Leading Male Actor in a feature film- which he most certainly does. To attending a local showing in Kill Devil Hills where Tyler, and Michael, flew across country to debut the film in his hometown, delighted in describing the character’s inspiration, and humbly answered questions in a way that rooted him to his island in a way that is both refreshing and full of pride.
You can read all the reviews and critics bylines for the plot of the film, but you’ll not find the grit, the heart and fiercely loyal determination to honor a promise to a friend in front of the camera. That which shines through the lens, that showcases an ample bodied actor given the platform to shine and teach the world a lesson about equality, is the real star of the story and showcases the true Outer Banks culture on the world’s stage.