'Knuckle Jack' to screen at Victoria film festival
• SHOWING: 8 p.m. Friday at the Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts; 2 p.m. April 6 at Golden Gecko
• RUNNING TIME: 79 minutes
• STARRING: John Adams, Zelda Adams, Toby Poser
• MORE INFO: vtxiff.com
Riding shotgun in a bumpy-ride, electric blue, single-cab truck, Toby Poser glances down at daughter Zelda before asking a handsome driver, John Adams, "You didn't tell me you had a kid?"
An oily-haired Adams grins then responds, "She's not my kid; I'm her uncle."
Zelda chimes in: "I call him Knuckle Jack."
Adams and Poser, who are in reality Zelda's parents, portray characters from the family's newest indie release, "Knuckle Jack," by Wonder Wheel Productions.
The film is screening twice next week at the Victoria TX Independent Film Festival, when dozens of international films are scheduled to debut.
"It's really about this guy who's alone with a lot of issues and can't work through them," said Adams, 47, who is also the film's director, writer and producer. "He's forced to grow up and wake up because of his niece."
Adams plays Jack, a clumsy professional house burglar and drug addict who reluctantly accepts guardianship of his niece, Frankie, when her mother is diagnosed with cancer.
Poser's character is unnamed in the film, but she plays a trailer-park pot smoker in constant need of some form of handout from Jack, usually involving drugs and money.
Poser and Adams work together on the film as writers, producers, directors and actors, and Adams uses his talents as a musician and film editor to weave the family's work and personal story together into a tapestry of cinematic intrigue.
"'Knuckle Jack' for me is like working out a part of my life in the story," he said, discussing the inspiration behind writing the film. "I had a big chemical problem for a while when my oldest daughter was younger - a mix of alcohol, pot and coke all mixed together. So this film celebrates the fact that my daughter kept shining a light in front of me and helped me find my way out of that."
For Adams, the film illustrates how the sweetness of life, portrayed by a then-8-year-old Zelda, can interrupt a person corrupted by drug and alcohol abuse when the light of childlike innocence shines on a person's inner demons.
"We're a pretty open family, and we treat our children as friends and companions. We don't shield them from a lot of stuff, and we think they're better for it," Adams said, mentioning that some have raised eyebrows about exposing their children early to adult themes of reckless and illegal behavior. "My daughter has seen and heard a lot in her life anyway. She was amazing in this movie. She's so smart and so good in this film."
Poser said their movie-making styles co-mingle in such a way that each of them are able to explore their creative interests on set.
Yet as the mom of the family as well as producer, she said she had to figure out how to manage the dual role.
"It was a challenge to switch back and forth because as the mom, I'm always thinking about their comfort and if they're hungry or tired," she said. "But I'm also not worried when we're on set because we're together as a family, and I get to create something with my kids."
"Knuckle Jack" is the second Adams' family release, which also includes the work of their eldest daughter, Lulu, who works behind the scenes on camera and sound production.
But even though the film touches on dark themes, the Southern California-based movie-making family is a portrait of familial normalcy on any other day of the week.
Lulu and Zelda attend public school and participate in soccer, track and other extracurriculars.
And Adams, a former male model and rock musician, is more than happy to trade in the fast-paced underbelly of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll for a rich career making movies with his family.
"I love being the soccer mom," he said. "We're so incredibly lucky, and every day, we thank the sky for what we get to do."
Both Poser and Adams hope people walk away from the film encouraged and feeling "something."
"Ultimately, we want people to feel the transformation and a sense of hope or at least see the opportunity for it," Poser said.