Harbaugh Readies for Next Filmby Jim Amidon • August 19, 2010
When he was a senior at Wabash in the fall of 2005, Russ Harbaugh turned plenty of heads with his pinpoint accuracy as the Little Giants’ starting quarterback. The soft-spoken gamer threw for a Wabash record 3,500 yards and 29 touchdowns in leading the College to an 11-1 season.
But perhaps Harbaugh turned even more heads as a filmmaker. His two documentaries — Beside Myself (2005) and Thy Loyal Sons (2006) — ignited conversation and debate about the very essence of Wabash — masculinity, identity, and relationships.
The films earned Harbaugh the Phi Beta Kappa Prize in his senior year, and helped him gain acceptance in a master’s degree program in film at Columbia University.
Today, Harbaugh stands at an important crossroads in his career. He’s preparing to direct his master’s thesis project, a 30-minute film called Rolling on the Floor Laughing, which he intends to shoot at his childhood home in Evansville. But in order to do so, the former Wabash English major must raise a pretty hefty production budget.
“Like most films by first-time directors, the need for financing is tremendous,” said Harbaugh in his film proposal. “With a budget upwards of $35,000, our only recourse is to ask for help, to invite the willing and interested to share in the exhilarating task of raising this project to its feet.”
Rolling on the Floor Laughing is scheduled to enter production in just three months. The project is deeply personal for Harbaugh.
“We’re shooting in Indiana, in the home where I grew up, from a script that began merely as a conversation between a loving mother (mine) and her curious, needling son (me),” said Harbaugh. “It’s a project inspired by films with modern, revisionist instincts toward autobiography — films like Maurice Pialat’s We Will Not Grow Old Together — films that wrestle with reality while abiding the structures of fiction.”
Harbaugh gives a brief description of his new film: “Rolling on the Floor Laughing is the story of a love-triangle between a middle-aged widow, a new lover in from out of town, and the woman’s grown sons with whom she shares a candid, sometimes unsettling intimacy. The story takes place over the course of a birthday weekend, the night before and the day of a party.”
Harbaugh has excelled in his graduate work at Columbia. He earned honors distinction in both screenwriting and directing, and had a celebrated apprenticeship under writer/director Eric Mendelsohn (pictured with Russ). Harbaugh worked with Mendelsohn on the film 3 Backyards, which won the directing prize at the Sundance Film Festival.
“It’s been a startling education, and has shown me the kind of personal and profound art that can be created when a group of interested friends and family and friends of friends and friends of family decide that they want to help,” Harbaugh said.
Harbaugh has assembled a proposal kit with information on how friends and family can make donations to support Rolling on the Floor Laughing. He’s set up the fund-raising process so that all contributions are tax deductible. For information on contributing, click here.
During his junior year at Wabash, Harbaugh explored Wabash’s history as a college for men and its many coeducation studies in Beside Myself. The 30-minute film also served as a metaphor for Harbaugh, who struggled through a difficult junior football season and was trying to work through his relationship with his twin brother, Barry.
A standing-room-only crowd of over 300 turned out for the film’s screening in Salter Hall.
A year later — and following his record-shattering senior football season — he produced another film, Thy Loyal Sons, which followed three Wabash students in their daily routines at the College. That film examined issues of labels and the compartmentalization of Wabash. Harbaugh told the stories of an African American football player, a fraternity man going through Sphinx Club rush, and an openly gay theater major.
Alumni and friends interested in learning more about Harbaugh’s thesis film, Rolling on the Floor Laughing, are invited to explore the information packet or email him.