Never Go Back: A Conversation with Local Filmmaker David Petlansky

The name David Petlansky may sound familiar if you’ve had any connection to the local film community in the past, oh, 15 years or so. His extensive resume includes titles like Turn, Everything Means Nothing, Tomorrow Mourning, and Black Matter Tomithy, all shot and produced locally on the First Coast under the pseudonym of Durden Godfrey.

Petlansky considers Jacksonville his hometown, being raised here from a young age. He and his wife moved to Missouri briefly before returning to Florida upon learning they were expecting their first child, due in September.

Eschewing film school in favor of a “stumbling” learning experience, Petlansky’s path could be described as nontraditional. In the formative years of his career, his projects leaned severely to the obscene, the polarizing, and sometimes the weird. He openly describes his early works as “preachy” and “angry.” But even aside from dark motifs, production quality was regularly sacrificed in the name of quantity: “I’ve spent my entire career on ten different projects that came to nothing,” he says. “I can take two years to concentrate on one thing, and see what I get in return, when I actually apply myself.”

Like many aspiring artists, he admires those who have a distinct style–think Tarantino, Wes Anderson, or the Coen brothers–and hopes to develop one of his own: “It sounds really cocky to say…but I know I could do something close to that kind of work. But I’ve never really tried. It took me 15 years to realize I wasn’t trying.”
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Never Go Back is an assertive try. And incidentally, a hairpin turn (pun intended) away from anything that is recognizably Petlansky. “Something about having my first kid on the way made me think about what I’m putting out into the world,” he says. “I had been concentrating on things that bothered me instead of on things I wanted to see happening.” The premise of Never Go Back is simple: Upon the death of his wife, a man named Dave, and his son Oliver, decide to honor her memory by going an extended camping trip.

Despite the tragic events that take place in the beginning of the story, there’s adventure, comedy, and a note of optimism throughout. Populated with relatable people and themes, the narrative focuses specifically the urge to abandon society and resist the “bullshittiness” of life–an urge to which he strongly relates.

“Every other aspect of my life is micromanaged by somebody else,” he explains. “Filmmaking is that one place I can go and be in complete control. Which is another reason I’ve always avoided any kind of instruction, even though it could have benefitted me.”

Unlike his previous projects, Petlansky is asking for help in this venture, primarily in a GoFundMe campaign. He’s investing time in script revisions and a lengthy shooting schedule, which will take a matter of months, and hopes to gain a wider audience and eventually a theatrical release.

Principle photography for Never Go Back is scheduled for this fall, and the film is slated to be completed November 2016. Its Go Fund Me campaign features several levels of incentive rewards based on the amount pledged. To contribute, go to www.GoFundMe.com/NeverGoBack. You can learn more about the project and its progress at www.NeverGoBack.us.

About Toni Rachal

october, 2021

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