Home News Roland’s Wrecking Service in St. Johnsbury will take you on an exciting...

Roland’s Wrecking Service in St. Johnsbury will take you on an exciting journey

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Roland's Wrecking Service in St. Johnsbury
Roland's Wrecking Service in St. Johnsbury

Roland and Mary Duprey are just the people you need when you find yourself stranded by snowbanks on a roadside in the Northeast Kingdom.

Roland’s Wrecking Service of St. Johnsbury takes great pride in offering “fair, honest and reasonably affordable wrecking service”.

Roland & Mary: A Winter of Towing in the Northeast Kingdom marks Vermont Public’s inaugural entry for their eighth-year of their Made Here local film series. As well as being available online and airing tonight at 8 PM ET/PT.

Roland's Wrecking Service in St. Johnsbury
Roland’s Wrecking Service in St. Johnsbury

This documentary follows Roland and Mary as they navigate their way through deep snowfall and stuck trucks, offering insight into their personal lives as they provide support for each other through various health issues.

Vermont filmmaker Dillon Tanner discussed his documentary with Vermont Public’s Mary Engisch for this audio-only interview, designed for listening enjoyment. We recommend listening to this audio file while we have also provided a transcript that has been edited for length and clarity.

Mary Engisch: As someone who usually prefers films that start off quickly with profane dialogue, I was quite taken aback when Roland and Mary began showing such an affectionate bond onscreen. What led them together, and inspired the creation of this film about them?

Dillon Tanner: My initial introduction to these people came through them providing me with a tow service. When living out of a giant step van that kept breaking down frequently in St Johnsbury, and seeking help for it from various places we called around seeking quotes of between $300-400 each time, another place quickly responded by asking “What do you need?” for only an additional fee of only $180 more – they became part of my story.

These people were instantly captivating: throwing chains at one another and shouting curse words while exchanging “I love yous.” I was mesmerized. We took a ride over to their auto shop where Roland, the owner, opened up to me as we discussed stories such as his truck running over him or disasters at work – stories which stayed with me until later when I asked Roland if we would like to collaborate on a movie project and asked whether we would work together on such an endeavor together; he agreed immediately so we agreed upon one year later when we would shoot together.

Mary Engisch: Someone recently wrote me to discuss my documentary — they know it will soon be airing — and expressed excitement to see their hero and rescuer Mary appear on television. What accounts for their popularity among Northeast Kingdom communities such as Roland? Mary Engisch: Thank you for writing in Someone just wrote me back with some interesting feedback regarding Roland vs. Mary; why do people in Northeast Kingdom feel such affection towards both characters?

Courtesy Dillon Tanner: Dillon Tanner stands out among their competitors by being more cost-effective, as well as having been operating for 45+ years and becoming part of their community – Roland is particularly well known for carrying miracle loads like moving an entire house or bulldozer! These guys know they will deliver.

So is this your first documentary film?

Dillon Tanner: My introduction to video began during high school with our broadcast media program and quickly discovered my skill was evident – something which continued into college and even throughout my 20s with short films I made off and on.

Mary Engisch: Please share more about filming this movie? Was it difficult to capture all the shots required due to its subject matter (wrecker service driving through snow) and impact how you shot this film?

Dillon Tanner: When it came to selecting my gear properly, I took great care in making careful choices. For instance, I purchased lobster claw gloves so that I could still operate my camera with both hands while holding onto one while pressing record simultaneously. Furthermore, I bought weatherproof cameras. Roland often teased me about having to select clothing and gear every day while wearing casual wear like loose jackets and thin pants like him.

Mary Engisch: Did you have an established tone or vibe in mind before starting filming, or did things just kind of unfold organically?

Dillon Tanner: When starting my film project, my initial intention was for it to focus on our travels through Northeast Kingdom and all of its inhabitants – both as environments and containers – but editing footage this way produced nothing watchable – until I switched focus onto their relationship instead.

It sounds like Roland and Mary’s adventures were quite eventful and challenging. While I don’t have personal experiences, I can imagine that in such situations, having a shovel on hand would be essential for a quick rescue if someone got stuck. As for documenting these moments, capturing them on film would be valuable for both learning and sharing the intense experiences that “Roland Mary” excursions can entail.

Dillon Tanner: At times I was forced to put down my camera. For instance, one scene involved nighttime footage where an off-grid kid lived at the top of a goat path; we became stuck several times before eventually our batteries gave out; what made it into the movie is only about one percent of our adventure.

Mary Engisch: As I watched that portion of the documentary, my blood pressure rose dramatically; it was so gripping.

Dillon Tanner: I’m so relieved to know that it still comes through, because after shooting I was worried that only 2-2% had been captured.

Mary Engisch: Absolutely, and it made the viewer understand just how urgent Roland and Mary’s calls for help from those stuck in snowbanks were for them to respond at any hour of day or night. What other projects or movies are planned in production or development?

Dillon Tanner: My main project right now is managing the Mothership Monthly Film Fest in Burlington. Each month I try to contribute something, whether that means documentaries or short films.

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