By Eric Valentine
Plotwise, Aric Iverson’s indie movie couldn’t be further from the local filmmaker’s own bio. But the film’s title—Road Less Traveled—sums up the lifelong Idahoan’s life journey superbly. It’s not every day that an award-winning writer-director can also claim mixed martial arts championships, professional snowboarding sponsorships, renowned custom tilesetting skills, and a departure from the Jehovah’s Witness religion in his teenage years that also saw him drop out of school.
Yet those are exactly the experiences the Bellevue resident can draw on as he doubles down on what has inadvertently become his deepest passion—auteur filmmaking. On Thanksgiving Day, Iverson released, for free, on YouTube, the 12-minute, 25-second film he wrote, directed, starred in and produced on a total budget of zero dollars, but has been selected by more than two dozen film festivals nationally and garnered him nearly a dozen festival circuit awards, including a best actor nod at the Twin Falls Sandwiches Film Festival in 2019.
“It was my first film, so I really wasn’t even thinking I’d be selected by any of the festivals,” Iverson said. “Sometimes we weren’t even sure what budget category to select because we did it on a zero-dollar budget.”
Iverson comes by his humility honestly. There’s something about professional snowboarding and competitive fighting that, despite the exhilarating highs, at some point you’re always brought back down to Earth. And then there was his teenage years as a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a religion known for putting the interest of God before the particular interests of any human. Iverson said the faith was never his cup of tea, but being in the religion meant he had to tear down his Bruce Lee and Jean-Claude Van Damme posters and become what he described as “a closet martial arts practitioner.”
“When I was a kid, I wanted to be Van Damme,” Iverson explained. “So my road to acting and my road to fighting coincided from the beginning.”
Iverson’s athletic accomplishments and experiences were not the only plot points in his life that brought lessons of highs and lows. Already in the mid 2000s, Iverson was writing screenplays, something he did in the hopes of developing characters that he could play himself.
“My first passion was acting and I just felt I needed to create some characters myself,” Iverson explained.
He did this superbly, too. One of the scripts, “Rotten Wood Creek,” was optioned by a production company in Los Angeles. It even had an experienced director from the UK attached to it in Nick Cohen, best known for a feature film called “The Reeds,” among dozens of other directing and writing credits. Then the Great Recession hit in 2007 and by 2008 funding and development fell through.
Another script, “Fallacy,” has its own special anecdote attached to it. One night, when Iverson was tending bar in Hailey, a Hollywood actor was a patron and noticed Iverson’s first name—Aric. The actor said the best script he’d ever read was written by some guy also named Aric. Iverson asked about the title of the script; the actor replied, “Fallacy.”
“Those experiences made me finally say, ‘Screw it, I think I need to make the entire movie myself,’” Iverson said.
That’s when Iverson wrote “Road Less Traveled” and put together an acting ensemble and a crew that included mostly first-timers.
“It was a team of people helping out any way they could,” Iverson said. “I learned so much about the entire filmmaking process, things I couldn’t even imagine before. There’s so much involved with making a movie, it’s crazy.”
The hard work involved with being a filmmaker is something that doesn’t phase Iverson. For that, he credits his father, Cliff Iverson, who founded and operated the family’s successful tilesetting company, Lei’s Custom Tile, which has made a name for itself working on the interiors of many high-profile north Valley estates. He also credits MMA training.
“Training is harder than a fight ever is, if you’re training right,” Iverson explained.
As for the creativity, Iverson says that’s the DNA legacy of his mom. His mother, Rhonda Iverson, is a renowned artist specializing in plein air.
Credit for rolling with life’s punches, though, falls on the shoulders of Iverson, the accomplished athlete. The bumps and bruises acquired in snowboarding and fighting are not failures or losses. If understood correctly, they are lessons learned—the ingredient of any great work of art. “Road Less Traveled” is Iverson’s first punch thrown, but it’s clear there will always be more.
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