AU alum produces counterculture film for millennials
It’s not uncommon for AU students to graduate with more than one degree, nor is it unusual for alumni to pursue a masters degree or work abroad. But opening a queer bar in Berlin and executive producing a counter-culture millennial road trip film? That was AU alumni Derek Marshall’s idea of living wild and free in the post-collegiate world.
Marshall received two undergraduate degrees from the School of International Service and Kogod School of Business in 2005. After graduating, he began working for Accenture, a consulting firm based in Alexandria, Virginia. While working at Accenture, Marshall also enrolled in AU’s International Communications graduate program and received his masters degree in 2006.
“I was kind of all over the place,” he said, “I was Business, as well as International Relations with a focus in East Asia, which is why I spent some time in Beijing. For my masters degree, I focused more on ethnic communities in Germany.”
But while working for Accenture, Marshall began to question if the nine-to-five life was the only way to live.
“I really, really did not like corporate America,” he said, “I thought maybe it would get better if I go and work for Accenture in Germany. So after I got my masters I moved to Germany, to Berlin, and realized ‘Hey, this corporate America nine-to-five thing isn’t really unique to America.’”
After quitting his job with Accenture, Marshall launched Making Commitments Matter, a Nongovernmental Organization called focused on simplifying access to United Nations information. At the same time, he began working for travel search engine company Kayak and quickly rose to an executive position within the then-small startup. Within four years Marshall was living full-time in Berlin. An NGO director by day and a Kayak executive by night, he also found time to open a queer bar and come back to the U.S. for several Burning Man festivals.
“Amidst all of that, my younger brother asked if I’d be interested in producing a film with him,” Marshall said. “I sent it to some friends whose opinions I trusted, and the feedback was like, ‘Holy shit, this is fucking brilliant.’ At that point, I was sold.”
Marshall left Kayak immediately, and spent the next year and a half learning the intricacies of the film industry as he went. His film, “Of Fortune and Gold,” is now in post-production and is scheduled to release in early summer 2015. The plot features four millennials on a road trip throughout the southwest in search of hidden gold and alternates with a western subplot explaining how the gold got there. But underlying themes, like generational psychology and the troubling taboos surrounding mental health, give “Of Fortune and Gold” a deeper emotional significance than its Goonies-like plot suggests.
“It was a lot of work, but it’s definitely been a project of love and I think the end product is amazing.”
“It’s geared towards millennials but also towards [baby] boomers,” Marshall said. “A lot of our parents were coming of age during the late 60’s and throughout the 70’s, and that was really the last time America had a big sociocultural shift. We wanted to point out some of the massive changes for the current generation that really started with the the financial crisis in 2008.”
Marshall said that “Of Fortune and Gold” was loosely based on a trip to Burning Man, and that the film draws inspi*ration from the festival’s counter-cultural atmosphere as well as its setting in the American Southwest.
“I think one of my favorite, and also most stressful, shoot was done at this old abandoned gold mine. There’s a scene where [the main characters] are at a rave, so I had a bunch of my friends come in from Europe,” Marshall said. “We were all dressed in these crazy clothes we’d wear to a rave here in Berlin, and we were out there with a bunch of extras for something like 16 hours. And even though we worked all through the night it was so much fun.”
With a Kickstarter fundraiser marking the launch of the film’s social media campaign, “Of Fortune and Gold” is entering the final stages of post-production. As the film’s release approaches, Marshall remains refreshingly excited about the nearly two year production process.
“We had a lot of really talented people that came together to make this happen,” Marshall said. “It was a lot of work, but it’s definitely been a project of love and I think the end product is amazing.”