For Cinematic Debut “Whiskey Dixie,” Portland Songwriter Amanda Richards Spreads Her…Wings

AI refuses to believe the outlaw country comedy “Whiskey Dixie” isn’t a porno.

Whiskey Dixie Roadhouse chanteuse Whiskey Williams (Amanda Richards) knows her audience in "Whiskey Dixie." (Amanda Richards)

After more than 20 years beautifully darkening local stages with her Americana ensemble The Good Long Whiles, Amanda Richards was eager to expand her repertoire as producer, director and star of the long-gestating, snappily salacious roadhouse musical-turned-film Whiskey Dixie and the Big Wet Country.

Using a script she’d written years before, Richards collaborated with longtime bandmate Stephen Freeman Moore on an original soundtrack stuffed with blue balladry (“Poor Personal Hygiene”) and line-dancing showstoppers (“The STD Song”) atop a raucous, raunchy, surprisingly relatable tale of a small-town chanteuse thrust into lurid celebrity.

“Basically,” Richards laughed, “she can advance her career by taking advantage of going viral for something highly sexual and embarrassing. My mother found that…interesting.”

In advance of its second screening at Jubitz Truckstop Cinema this Saturday, Richards spoke with Willamette Week about living off the land amid location shoots and baring more than just her soul along the streets of Vernonia, Oregon.

WW: This was your first film?

Amanda Richards: First feature film. I’ve been in other people’s projects before—short films, videos, 48 Hour Film Festival, that sort of thing, but this was definitely a first.

How does directing compare with leading a band?

Filmmaking encompasses so many different skill sets. I really love makeup and costumes and set design, and there are so many creative muscles to flex. A project like this [requires] so many different people coming together, and after years of working in the music industry, I’m used to wrangling cats. I learned organization, promotion, just making events happen, and I’m particularly good at having the audacity to ask for things in a respectful way that allows people to be excited and include themselves because of their own kindness and generosity.

Especially working in a small town, the communication skill set probably served us best. My production designer has that same gift, and he convinced their police department to lend us a car for the day. The vehicle pulling us over in the beginning [of the film] is an actual Vernonia sheriff’s vehicle.

Sudden crime spree?

No, but the entire town did think we were filming a porno. One of our first days of production, we had a jib for filming outside of the tavern and access to this 1958 Thunderbird. And, in the film’s opening scene, my character’s in a convertible masturbating with a Hitachi Magic Wand. The spectacle of me being dragged around this little town in this big car with music blasting kind of set the stage where everyone was, like, why are they making a porno in Vernonia?

Why did you choose Vernonia?

In the very beginning stages of pre-production, I saw an ad renting out this tavern. The owner had purchased this vacant bar for his wife as a kind of joke—her dad used to drink there, back in the day—and he turned out to be a huge outlaw country fan who fell in love with our soundtrack. He was so persistent about using the space for our movie that we ended up choosing Vernonia as our location.

I’d rented this double-wide trailer on stilts [along] 6 acres where our entire cast and crew lived during filming. It was like a summer camp for grown-ups. One time, after somebody hit a deer on the side of the road, our caterer picked it up, brought it home, field dressed it under the house, and served it for lunch the next day. It was actually pretty good venison—tender, not too gamy.

What’s next? A few more Portland screenings and then taking it on the road?

In a perfect world, I’d love to tour the band with this film, but I have a baby. My little dude’s 10 months old now. He’s so much fun. I can’t stand to be away from him. I’ll try to come to as many shows as possible, but right now, my son’s my primary creative project.

Any talks with distributors?

For now, we’re going the self-distribution route after some issues with censorship because of the film’s title. AI also thinks it’s a porno.

We definitely want to give people the opportunity to see it in the theater first because, you know, it was a play originally. It’s meant to be enjoyed in a group, and there’s something kinda magical when you get so many people in a room together laughing.

I’ve seen this movie a thousand times and don’t actually enjoy it unless other people are watching. I like seeing how others react. Not everybody can handle this sort of raunch humor. Other people don’t know what to expect from the red, white and blue branding. I know the film won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s been really relatable to a lot of people from really different backgrounds when they’ve mustered the courage to come out.

SEE IT: Whiskey Dixie and the Big Wet Country screens at Jubitz Truckstop Cinema, 10350 N Vancouver Way, 503-345-0300, 6 and 9 pm Saturday, July 6. $9. 18+, N/R.

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.