Fall 2011 Issue | By Andrew Taylor
CRATERS OF THE MOON PROVES TO BE FERTILE GROUND FOR ISU ALUMNI FILMMAKERS
It's winter, bitter cold and snow all around. You and your spouse, who you are having major tensions with, are driving through the expanse of the Arco desert in East Idaho. You crash into a snowbank and now you're trapped, indefinitely.
Director of Photography, Drew Blatman, and Actor Lee Juan Tyler getting ready for a scene.
The movie "Craters of the Moon," created by two Idaho State University alumni from Blackfoot, explores just how bad this scenario could get and is billed as a "slow-burning psychological thriller that builds to a horrifying climax in a small car."
"The way I've been pitching it is that a married couple becomes disorientated in the desert," said Jesse Millward, 29, the film's writer and director. "They get stuck in the snow, alone for days, and all the problems in their relationship are magnified until they're pushed to a breaking point."
The 90-minute movie includes a fight at a rest stop, an attempt to elude police, and the isolation of a troubled couple trapped together for days in their car. Did we mention the wolves?
If all goes well for its creators, this movie shot on location near the Craters of the Moon, Driggs and Island Park in frigid weather last February, could be shown in the 2012 Sundance Film Festival at Park City, Utah, in January.
"We're submitting the film in September and we feel pretty good about our chances of getting in," said Millward, who now lives in New York City, and recently earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from Columbia University in New York.
Car on location at sunset.
Millward, a 2000 graduate from Blackfoot High School, teamed up with 1999 BHS graduate Jacob Brumfield, an ISU alumnus who now lives in Boise and has a film production company, War Chief Films. Brumfield is the film's producer.
The premise for the movie arose from the lore of Southeast Idaho.
"When I was growing up in Idaho," Millward said, "almost everybody had a story about the time their car stuck somewhere out in the middle of nowhere, and I thought that situation had great potential for a movie."
A benefit of the film's premise is that it primarily features two actors in one location, so it could be a feature-length film produced on a limited budget. This is a purely independent film; Millward and Brumfield raised the money for the film and paid for everything out of pocket.
Producer, Jacob Brumfield, Standing in the cold on location in the middle of the night.
"Filming at the Craters of the Moon was absolutely ideal," Millward said. "Once the characters are stuck, you literally cannot see any sign of civilization. It really is isolated. You can see for miles, and you know nobody is going to come get you."
There were challenges to producing the movie.
"Filming it pretty much sucked. It was horribly cold," said Brumfield, who noted that temperatures dipped to as low as 15 degrees below zero. "We had to go through hell to get good production values, standing in the cold for seven to 10 hours a day to get the shots we wanted. The shooting was gorgeous, but really hard. It's the coldest I've ever been and as a kid I used to feed and calve cows in the winter."
If the film is shown at the Sundance Film Festival, the two ISU alumni plan to meet as many future collaborators for future projects as possible. They hope a studio or distribution company will pick up the film. "The experience of going out and making a feature-length film was a huge experience and I got a lot out of it," Millward said. "I think it shows what we can do."
There is another ISU connection to the film: current mass communication student Chris Crampton worked as an intern during the film. Furthermore, one of the actors in the movie, Leejuan Tyler, is a resident of Fort Hall.