The only line from Two Roads that directly quotes Robert Frost’s poem is the last: “And that has made all the difference.”
The rest of the film, produced by Watchman Productions, re-interprets “The Road Not Taken” through metaphors and dialogue between two characters, Mick and Jim. It’s a journey of self-discovery and realization about the effects of our choices, but the film’s making started out as something of a joke.
Director Gregory Ekmekjian had been finishing another film, Adult Behavior, when newbie screenwriter Ralph Pililian, who Ekmekjian had known for years, came up to him and asked about collaborating on a film in 2009. Initially, Ekmekjian wasn’t interested.
“I was tired. Making a film — you can only do one every few years. It takes a lot out of you,” Ekmekjian said.
But when Pililian continued, Ekmekjian told him he’d consider if Pililian wrote a screenplay with only two male actors — fewer people, less drama — and scenes that occur in the forest, which would mean less work finding things like props.
So, that’s what Pililan did.
Two weeks later, “He came back to me with the script, Two Roads. He actually took the poem and he broke it down like nothing I’ve ever seen before. He knows that poem inside and out. He said there are so many interpretations about it — there are choices and consequences — but it’s a pretty dark poem. Lots of people don’t know that,” Ekmekjian said.
Ekmekjian was amazed.
“I was familiar with ‘The Road Not Taken’ but I had never seen it through these kinds of perspectives. … He took the essence of that poem and turned it into a seven-page script, with dialogue and a main character, looking at his life.”
The film is 17 minutes long, and scenes are set in outdoor places: at the meeting of two trails, a stream, a grassy hillside and a cliff.
Finding just the right locations was more difficult than you’d think; Ekmekjian had more than 100 scouts scouring Southern California trying to find places with just the right kind of character. They filmed in 2009, during early mornings, evenings or cloudy days in four California cities: La Cañada, Monrovia, Irvine and Azusa.
“I didn’t want there to be any shadows. I wanted it to look very dreamlike,” Ekmekjian said.
He thinks the messages are ones anyone can relate to.
“In life, you don’t really know the future, so whatever choices you make, there’s going to be a consequence for it,” he said. “Sometimes I look back and wonder, did I make the right choices in my life? … I think the film is very universal. I think it will grab everybody.”
Two Roads premiered in California in 2011, but Ekmekjian brings it to the place that started it all, Robert Frost Farm, for its first New Hampshire showing on Sunday, Aug. 30, at 2 p.m., part of the Robert Frost Farm Literary series.
The film has screened in 45 states and traveled internationally; last month, Ekmekjian brought it to Alaska.
“But for me, the one place I’m looking forward to going to is New Hampshire. For me, it’s like America there,” said Ekmekjian, who plans to see the sites and hike Mount Washington during his visit. “The license plate says it all. You can’t get more straightforward than that.”