GIBSON CITY – The COVID-19 pandemic has closed movie theaters, but many drive-ins remain open. So an independent filmmaker is making sure his movie can be seen on the big screen, with a eight-day tour of drive-in theaters, including a stop on Friday, August 20, at the Harvest Moon Drive-In, in Gibson City, north of Champaign.
The movie is “Working Man,” a drama about Allery Parkes, an aging factory worker (played by veteran character actor Peter Gerety), who continues to go to work, even after his plant is closed down, mystifying and worrying his wife (played by Talia Shire). At first, he is just cleaning machinery in a darkened, empty facility. But soon Allery is joined by a former co-worker (played by Billy Brown), who launches an effort to restart operations at the factory, without telling the company that owns it. There are inevitable complications which require Allery to face events in his own life and that of his co-worker.
“Working Man” was being shown at film festivals a year before the onset of COVID-19. But Robert Jury, who wrote and makes his directorial debut with the film, says the laid-off workers he depicts face personal challenges similar to those faced by workers laid off due to the pandemic.
“Critics and other folks were able to identify our movie and see that it was very timely, with the sudden unemployment that happened as a result of coronavirus that we’re still experiencing,” said Jury.
Jury filmed “Working Man” in the Chicago area, with a supporting cast drawn from the region. The scenes taking place at a shuttered plastics factory were filmed at a shuttered facility in the suburb of Norridge. And exterior shots depicting the unnamed rust belt town where the movie takes place were filmed in the Will County city of Joliet, southwest of Chicago. Many of the movie’s Joliet shots focused in the city’s old bridges spanning the Des Plaines River.
“This could be a lot of different cities across the Midwest, and across the traditional rust belt, places that I grew up around, and that feel very familiar,” said Jury, who grew up on an Iowa farm, and now lives in Iowa City. “I think it will feel familiar for a lot of people who see the film, that have grown up out here.”
“Working Man” is showing on streaming services, but COVID-19 has kept it from being shown in movie theaters. The movie’s distributor, Brainstorm Media, has arranged special showings at drive-in theaters over the next week, with Jury appearing at each showing.
Jury will be on hand for the only Illinois showing of the movie’s drive-in tour, Friday evening, August 20, at the Harvest Moon Drive-In in Gibson City, north of Champaign. “Working Man” will be one of the few new movies to play at the Harvest Moon this year. The drive-in has been playing mostly older movies in lieu of new releases during the pandemic. 1985’s “The Breakfast Club” will share the screen with “Working Man” on Friday night. The Harvest Moon says it will donate its portion of ticket sales from the showing to St. Jude Children’s Hospitals.