How Adam Irving stayed the course to make 'Off the Rails'
First-time filmmaker Adam Irving faced a lot of obstacles telling the tale of compulsive New York train thief Darius McCollum. But Irving was determined to get his movie Off the Rails made. He tells us how he did it, and what he learned about making and marketing documentaries along the way.
When aspiring documentarian Adam Irving approached Darius McCollum about telling his story, he learned he was the 27th person who hoped to make a film about this obsessed New Yorker who just can't stop stealing trains and buses despite repeated incarcerations. Irving tells us how he succeeded where others failed, and how his documentary Off the Rails turned into something more than the simple caper movie he originally intended to make.
Photo: Filmmaker Adam Irving, director of Off the Rails
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The new documentary Off the Rails tells the story of Darius McCollum, a 51-year-old New Yorker with a lifelong love for -- and encyclopedic knowledge of -- the area's transit system. He loves driving MTA trains and buses, and knows how to access them with ease. The only problem? He's never actually been an employee of the MTA.
McCollum, who has been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, has never hurt anyone during his transit escapades. He even picks up and drops off passengers as scheduled. But his behavior has landed him in prison 32 times.
That story captivated 34-year-old first-time filmmaker Adam Irving, a Canadian who, several years ago, began a PhD in film studies at the University of Texas. Before he finished, Irving decided academia wasn't for him. He moved to LA, where at first, the only job he could land was working as a cameraman for reality shows.
When Irving went to make the jump from reality show cameraman to documentarian, he found he wasn't the first person to be interested in McCollum for a documentary. In fact, Irving was the 27th filmmaker to approach him. He tells us why he succeeded where 26 others failed, and how his film Off the Rails evolved as he was making it -- going from a fun and quirky caper movie to something that delves into more of the issues of an overworked and under-resourced criminal justice system.
Irving also shares how he avoided what he sees as common mistakes for first-time filmmakers and why he's so committed to pushing an awards campaign for his film, even if he has to pay for it himself.
Off the Rails is screening at multiple festivals and opens theatrically in Los Angeles on November 4.