While shooting a music video more than 1,500 miles away, in the harsh New York City winter, Greg Schroeder was haunted by a lingering question.
During a break in production, Schroeder turned to his longtime friend Josh David Jordan behind the camera: “Why doesn’t Dallas understand us?”
That self-reflexive moment helped inspire This World Won’t Break, a drama about a middle-aged Texas troubadour who shares Schroeder’s career trajectory — reaching a certain age and wondering if your big break was ever going to happen.
“He said exactly the same thing I was feeling,” said Jordan, who has toiled in relative obscurity as a locally based actor on stage and screen for almost two decades.
Schroeder stars in the film as Wes, a 40-year-old bluesy singer-songwriter whose career struggles have left him broke, lonely, and squandering most of the money he makes from low-paying bar gigs on booze. He puts his life into his music, yet to find a viable path forward, Wes must reconcile his creative ambitions with his personal flaws.
“The character in the movie is more of a combination of Josh and me,” said Schroeder, who performs his own songs in the film but had never acted outside of his music videos. “When I said yes, I didn’t even really contemplate the fact that I would be acting. There was a whole learning process.”
As for Jordan, he transitioned to filmmaking several years ago, directing a couple of videos for the Polyphonic Spree — in which his wife is a member — along with Rhett Miller of the Old 97’s. A couple of short films garnered acclaim on the festival circuit.
He spent about a year hashing out the screenplay in 2015, when he was living in a “closet” in Deep Ellum while working a full-time job downtown.
“There were so many movies about the rising star or the falling star, but our movie is about the star who never makes it,” Jordan said. “That’s a lot of people.”
Almost the entire film was shot within the Dallas city limits, somehow incorporating 49 locations on a shoestring budget of about $36,000. That meant a lot of favors from friends.
“For 20 years, I’ve been building relationships with people, and they all came through,” Jordan said. “This film is a love letter to the city. I could never have made this film without Dallas. I wanted to show the landscape of the city.”
This World Won’t Break debuted at the Dallas International Film Festival in April, and will continue its local rollout with a screening on Saturday night at the Texas Theatre. Keen local moviegoers will recognize a few landmarks, although in a low-key way.
“We made a point not to show the skyline,” Schroeder said. “We show the Dallas that Dallas people know.”
The concept might have spawned out of frustration, although Jordan insists the film was made with love, not malice, toward his hometown. As for the question of long-term artistic prosperity, it offers no easy solutions, but it does provide another avenue for its two creative partners to showcase their talents. So why haven’t they made it big yet?
“That’s an eternal question. If you knew the answer, you wouldn’t be in the position you’re in right now. Maybe that’s why this got made. But it still doesn’t make you sleep easier at night,” Schroeder said. “I’m trying my best to give this city what I think they want, but you can’t make your audience love you. Just keep doing it until one day, they do.”
Josh David Jordan and Greg Schroeder will participate in a Q&A following the screening at 8 p.m. Saturday.