Dandelion (2024): Is the Movie Rooted in Reality?

Directed by Nicole Riegel, ‘Dandelion’ tells the story of an aspiring Cincinnati singer-songwriter who meets a guitarist named Casey in South Dakota. Together, they embark on a journey to discover their voice as artists while simultaneously exploring their relationship with one another. However, Dandelion soon realizes that Casey has forgone his ambitions to become a musician, and the two connect over their struggles to make a living out of their passion. As the titular protagonist falls in with Casey’s group, she learns to appreciate more than just her music but the painstaking process behind the creation of her songs.

The somber tale depicts the day-to-day challenges of pursuing one’s creative dreams while being relegated to obscurity. Dandelion’s quest to make a living out of her aspirations runs into fallow grounds as she constantly finds herself at odds financially and lacking in any rewards for her efforts. Thus, the film pulls the curtain back on the constant struggle artists face in their pursuit to be noticed and the persistence and perseverance needed to plug away at their craft while remaining ignored. Therefore, due to its deep exploration of its subject matter, the genesis of ‘Dandelion’ comes into the spotlight, raising prominent questions regarding whether or not it is based on a true story.

Dandelion is a Fictional Story That Draws From the Director’s Experiences

‘Dandelion’ is a fictional narrative built out of the frustrations of writer and director Nicole Riegel’s past as a filmmaker. In 2020, she directed the coming-of-age drama, ‘Holler,’ which came out during the COVID-19 pandemic, suffering from the global shutdown of festivals and other avenues where the film was set to be shown. During that period, the director revealed that she was going through a dark period where she felt her work wasn’t getting the exposure it needed, especially given the modest nature of the independent production and the circumstances surrounding the virus outbreak.

In a video interview, Riegel said, “I sort of wrote my way out of a dark place through ‘Dandelion’ and thought, wow, I love the process of this, and I was like, wow, okay, that’s it. I already have something to celebrate, and ‘Holler,’ the making of it was the prize, and I’m only unhappy because I’m relying on these rewards that I can’t control. And I just learned such a valuable lesson as an artist in general – is love the process of what you do; the process is your reward.” The film aligns with her struggles as a filmmaker and illustrates them through the eponymous protagonist’s journey as a singer. 

The director also revealed that she moved to Nashville from Los Angeles during the scriptwriting process, where she was surrounded by musicians from all manner of backgrounds. “I’m surrounded by struggling musicians and successful musicians,” she said. “And yeah, I had to find my community.” She spent a lot of time out in nature, familiarizing herself with the outdoors, which features heavily in Dandelion’s nomadic lifestyle after she joins Casey’s gang. These elements were essential in layering the reality of the character’s growth from someone who is attached to turning her music into a job to someone who learns the value of her uniqueness in a creative sense.  

Dandelion Intimately Explores the Creative Process of an Artist

Although ‘Dandelion’ is fictional in conception, it is microscopic in its portrayal of the subtleties and nuances of an artist’s journey to create something valuable. It depicts the reality of the process without sensationalizing or dramatizing it beyond expectations. Kiandra Layne AKA KiKi, who plays the protagonist, elaborated on the authenticity of the narrative with regards to other music films where characters can often be seen going from rags to riches in a matter of moments. For her, the story of Dandelion is in the pain, the hurt, and the revelations of the whole journey and not just the end goal. 

“This film digs into that in a way that feels more grounded and authentic in comparison to other films about music,” she said, “Where someone goes from being a struggling musician to being the biggest star in the world. That’s not the story for most of us. I feel like people are connecting with that, which I connected to. Even with my success, I still wrestle with many of those same thoughts that Dandelion wrestles with: ‘Who are you as an artist? How do you want to be seen in the world? Is there space for you? Does anyone actually care? Is this as far as you can take this?’ These are very, very real things, and I think the film does a very beautiful job of exploring them in a way that feels real.”

Layne also connected with the musical aspect of the narrative due to her past as a musician. She had longstanding aspirations to become a singer, stating that “The desire to sing never left me,” a skill that was invaluable in the scenes where she had to perform the songs herself. Thus, despite not having any roots in true events, ‘Dandelion’ manages to bridge that gap by digging deep into the songwriting process and the doubts that emerge from those discussions. It relates to the struggles of creatives all around the globe in its poignant and understated examination of what it takes to achieve one’s dreams in a world that sometimes doesn’t care at all.

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