When you live in Eugene, the phrase “track town” is so ubiquitous it borders on cliché.
But as the latest movie being filmed in Eugene by former UO runner and filmmaker Alexi Pappas, Tracktown hopes to illuminate the allure of the local running obsession.
On Friday, Aug. 29, Pappas and her team rounded up 150 or so locals and 20 professional runners to be extras for a scene with legendary local runners Andrew Wheating and Nick Symmonds filmed at UO’s Hayward Field.
Tracktown embraces the idea of “place” as its own character. “It helps to be very specific and tell a story in a world that you know and that maybe hasn’t been seen or told about before,” Pappas says. “Just like running, filmmaking is a discipline.”
In this coming-of-age story, the protagonist (played by Pappas) is a runner who becomes enthralled with a young man who is not involved in the running community. “[The film] is about deciding where you want to fit in,” says Jeremy Teicher, Pappas’ boyfriend who co-wrote and directed Tracktown, as well as the couple’s first film, Tall as the Baobab Tree (2012). “Eugene is a really cool backdrop for that type of story,” he says.
After graduating from Dartmouth, Pappas had similar themes to resolve in her own life. With a background in improv comedy, she planned to pursue poetry in graduate school, putting running on the backburner. But she still had one year of eligibility as a student athlete, and instead moved to Eugene to run in 2012.
At the UO, she helped win national championships for indoor track and cross country. Pappas also received an interdisciplinary master’s degree in film, creative writing and entrepreneurial business.
“The most important thing is for me to be taken seriously as a creative person and as an athlete, both and independently,” Pappas says.
Under the leadership of producers Laura Wagner and Jay Smith, the film has already received help from the San Francisco Film Society and the Sundance Creative Producing Lab. Pappas says the project, shooting for a release after the 2016 Olympics, also has support from the cinema community in Portland and across the state.
Pappas and the rest of her team are excited to give something back to a town that makes them proud.
“I’ve never felt more myself than in Eugene,” Pappas says.