Originally the NIGHT OF THE WOLFEANS was intended to be nothing but a series of blogs about location scouting. Two regional film commission scouts had been contacted to help with the preproduction efforts for the Jose Rivera adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s ON THE ROAD. But when the work they were doing wasn’t scheduled to make it into the production, they decide to blog about their adventures in a more relevant manner.
Based on actual events, the Wolfeans project is about locations; it celebrates that aspect of the filmmaking process as opposed to production, the acting or other technical matters.
After their successful scout with the Zoetrope representative in 2008, the two, nicknamed Sleazy and Crappy in the film –as they were also called in real life—continue their readings, researching and follow up work; and the results grow more and more distinct from the feature production which was itself, at that time, going through several transformations of its own.
Much of their original research involved both the published 1951Original Scroll version (as opposed to the feature film which was being based on the edition published by Viking in 1957) as well as the relevant sections from VISIONS OF CODY which covered much of the same material.
When the Screen Actors Guild threatened to go on strike, the production had been at the stage of scheduling technical scouts to help develop the budget and other final preproduction activities. Not being able to cast the film because of the threat of the strike however, the production had to shut down. When it was resurrected after the settlement, there were different involvements and the old structure had changed. Neither Colorado nor New Mexico locations would be part of the new itinerary.
That was when the idea of the documentary became a reality. In the first draft, the scouts worked with a television affiliate and the project was to involve some local college students who were studying the novel. They would all hop in a RV and head south from Denver, traveling the route which Neal Cassady, Kerouac and Frank Jeffries drove on the first night of their trip toward Mexico City.
At that time the idea was to have the students re-experience exactly what that trip would have been like. They could discuss the novel while some of the scouting photographs were intercut with some of the actual night footage of what they were seeing: sunset, moonrise, the towns and other landmarks.
At production meetings it was decided that they would integrate this live action commentary, motion and still color location photography with some more artistic black and whites. These would be strictly contemporary images which would show how the fifties look was still part of this area and, more or less, look like images in an art gallery except they would really be the ones frozen in the memories of the travelers.
Including these locations with the story of the scouting and discussion about the meaning of the novel would provide a dramatic story line. It also, by accident, paralleled the story they were filming because at the end of the scout the original team, Sleazy and Crappy, now the producers of the movie, went their separate ways just as Kerouac, Cassady and Jeffries all split apart at the end of Book Four.