Television has an awesome power to shape the lives of the people who love it, which is why some of us spent large parts of our childhood decked out in ninja gear, with a trashcan lid strapped to our backs, insisting that we were a teenage mutant ninja turtle.
(Some of us also spend large parts of our adulthood this way. DON'T JUDGE.)
But when an onscreen fantasy becomes reality — and when the fantasy is the strange and sinister 1989 cult classic “Twin Peaks” — the life that imitates the art can be as fascinating as any primetime drama.
One such life is the subject of “Northwest Passage,” a documentary film in the works which launches its Kickstarter today. Speaking exclusively to MTV, director Adam Baran gave us a glimpse into the story behind the movie, with behind-the-scenes photos and a teaser trailer that demonstrate what makes this story so worth telling.
MTV News: Tell us more about the man at the center of “Northwest Passage.”
Adam Baran: In a broad sense, the documentary is about my friend Travis Blue, who grew up in the town where “Twin Peaks” was filmed, and whose obsession with the series kind of took him on a wild and dangerous ride into adulthood.
In 1989, he saw the crew shooting the waterfall scene that opens the show. He went home and told his father, he said, “They’re filming something in town,” and his father said, “Oh, I saw something about that on the news, let’s go out this weekend and watch them film some more. They went to the diner, where they were changing the barstools from blue to red, and I think Travis watched this and some of the other scenes being filmed, and he was astonished to see his world changing right in front of his eyes. That people could manipulate the world and make it a different place - make his place a different place.
On a lot of levels, “Twin Peaks” saved him and helped him, and gave him a voice. But he also had to deal with a lot of abuse in his life, of different kinds, and eventually took this dark path and wound up living on the streets. In one of the key moments in the movie, we find that he was doing sex work in the same bar as Laura Palmer in the film, “Fire Walk with Me.”
MTV: It sounds as though Laura Palmer became like a patron saint to him.
Baran: Taking Laura Palmer as his role model was an understandable choice, if not a good one. She had all this power over men. Every man on the show, every person in the town, really, has a deep relationship with Laura. We’ve talked a lot about how she had this power, and he was someone who experienced abuse, and the idea of having power and control was attractive. But at the same time, Laura Palmer was a victim. Her desires were punished severely. For a young gay boy, coming of age in the pacific northwest, with the circumstances he had endured, it became like - I’m going to take on this character. I’m going to start doing drugs, experimenting with sex with dangerous people. and that was linked to "Twin Peaks."
MTV: So this is the story of someone who blurred that line - from being one of the people surrounding this character, being fascinated with and obsessed with her from a distance, to actually wanting to become her.
Baran:Yes, I’d say that’s correct.
MTV: It seems like there’s something to be said, not just in this case but in general, for the way that television gives people a lens like this through which they can examine their own lives, engaging with their own stories — and with each other’s.
Baran:This is a story about “Twin Peaks,” but it’s also a story about important issues: Abuse, addiction, homelessness, growing up gay, bullying. I think this film has the power to transcend just being a Twin Peaks story. It’s about the way that fictional narratives affect our lives, in both positive and negative ways. So many people around the world use movies and TV as a way to figure out who they are, who they want to be, what they like, what they want their life to be like. At its core, this story is about that — and the ways that it can be a double edged sword. [Travis] is a fan who became really enmeshed in and inspired by this fictional world.
MTV: Where will this story begin, and where will it take us?
Baran:With some gaps, it spans about 12 years. It begins at the moment in 1989 when [Travis] saw the crew shooting the waterfall scene that opens the show, to his obsession with the series, to his entry into the “Twin Peaks” fan festival world, and then to the darker years. That goes on until about 1996. And then some six or seven years later, we return, and watch Travis as he tries to figure out how not to be a fictional character, how to be himself.
MTV: And does he succeed? With all the “Twin Peaks” connections, it’s hard not to wonder how this story will end by comparison to the show that inspired it.
Baran:I would never want to reveal the ending of Twin Peaks, so I would just say there’s a marked difference in the endings of these stories. It’s as simple as the light and the dark, and you’ll have to see where ours falls on that spectrum.