You know how the story ends. The young, struggling artist is discovered by a stroke of luck and skyrockets to the top. Or there’s the singer who’s fallen from grace and is reborn after leaving behind a volatile lifestyle.
But what about the performer who never makes it? That’s what director Josh Jordan explores in his first feature film, “This World Won’t Break.” The production, which premiered April 11 at the Dallas International Film Festival, follows broke-down, middle-aged Texas troubadour Wes Milligan as he pursues his musical dream. He longs to be remembered as a country legend, but his failings and self-doubt frustrate his career.
The storyline was personal for Jordan, an actor at the Ochre House Theater who has also appeared on “Scrubs.” After years as an actor, Jordan turned to writing and directing. He produced numerous video shorts like “The Boxer” and “Sam and Gus.” But when he turned 40, he realized his career hadn’t turned out the way he’d hoped.
“I got in a funk,” he says.
Jordan found consolation in his friend, Houston country singer Greg Schroeder. While the pair filmed a music video in New York, Schroeder echoed Jordan’s sentiments, and they started working together on the film.
“He said the exact same thing I was feeling, but it looked more poetic coming from him, especially in the snow and in his cowboy hat,” Jordan says. “Nobody wants to see a movie about a struggling screenplay writer, so I started writing how I felt with him as a vessel.”
Schroeder stars as the lead in “This World Won’t Break,” alongside several neighborhood faces. Matthew Posey, a Hollywood Heights neighbor who has appeared in “The Magnificent Seven” and “No Country for Old Men,” plays the protagonist’s father, and Lakewood musician Tim DeLaughter is cast as a cross-dressing landlord. George Dunham, a sports radio personality for The Ticket, also has a role.
“All my friends are in the movie,” Jordan says. “We became so close. The last day of shooting, we felt like we were all leaving summer camp. When you don’t shower for a couple days, we were all sunburnt and smelly. But every day was a blast.”
It took the small crew about a year and a half to film, despite numerous mishaps that caused Jordan to doubt if he would ever finish. Shortly after funding fell through, Posey was shot in the face leaving a Deep Ellum brewery in January 2017. Then Jordan tore his ACL stage diving. A few months later, he lost two teeth biting into a frozen Snickers bar.
But the East Dallas community rallied around Jordan by lending props, acting as extras and providing meals for the cast. (The director thinks he’s finally returned everyone’s Crock-Pots.)
Neighbors will recognize White Rock Lake, Good Records, Swiss Avenue and Johnny’s Liquor Store in the film. Yet many of the set locations, such as Doug’s Gym in downtown Dallas, are no longer open as new developments sprout throughout the city.
Despite such changes, Jordan hopes to make the film timeless with no clothing brands or technology to reveal a specific timeframe. Instead, viewers will see old cars and rotary phones that remind Jordan of growing up in Dallas in the ’90s while his dad worked as a traveling evangelist.
“It’s 100 percent set in Dallas,” Jordan says. “If you’re from here, you’ll know in the first 30 seconds where you are. If you’re not from Dallas, there’s no skyline. There’s no Reunion Tower. It’s nostalgic. That’s how we see Dallas.”
Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.