Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Craters of the Moon is backdrop for thriller film

Student filmmaker comes home to Idaho for authentic location

Express Staff Writer

This scene in “Craters of the Moon” is at a rest stop between Blackfoot and Idaho Falls where the character Cody is hitting someone in the face with a rock. On the ground, director of photographer Drew Blatman is filming the scene with director Jesse Millward next to him. Producer Jacob Brumfield is standing next to Cody. Courtesy photo

Director Jesse Millward, 29, is an MFA candidate in film studies at Columbia University's School of the Arts in New York City. Millward grew up in Blackfoot, Idaho, attending Blackfoot High School and Idaho State University. Millward's passion for film led him to New York City to study, but his Idaho roots definitely play a role in his film ideas.

"When I was in middle school in Blackfoot, we were shown a video about what to do if your car got stuck," Millward said. "In the film, we saw a married couple argue. They decided to leave their car, and they died. The film was meant to teach us not to leave our car when in a snowstorm."

Millward said the story had always appealed to him and became the basis of his thesis project.

"The film started as a really vague idea about two people stuck in a car," he said. "It was difficult to come up with a married couple that seemed authentic."

Millward said inspiration came from Stanley Kubrick films such as "The Shining."

"Kubrick does a lot with his shots," he said. "There is always something beautiful to look at and the rhythm of his editing builds tension to create a mood."

Millward said the bleak and harsh winter location of Craters of the Moon outside of Carey was an excellent backdrop for his idea of a thriller-horror movie.

"A weird thing that happened while filming," he said. "We had a fire going, which caught the attention of a pack of coyotes. You could hear them all around. We realized we were being watched the whole time at Craters of the Moon even though no one was out there that we could see."

The film involves a death by a wolf. Millard had a wolf trainer from Driggs, Idaho, help him so he could use a real wolf in the film.

"A lot of students spend $30,000 to make short films for their thesis," he said. "I wanted to make a film for a lot less money and also have it be a feature-length film. For me, the money is in the location. It was worth it for the footage. I've looked around and haven't seen any films that have a look like this."

Millward wrote a 72-page script about one location with two people. He's also a co-producer and director of the film.

"My feeling was the film was going to be an intense and extreme situation," he said.

Millward and his crew of 10 people, which came from Los Angeles, New York City and Idaho, filmed at Craters of the Moon throughout February and finished production on March 6.

"It was really cold and nobody wanted to be out there," he said. "There are only two actors in the entire film. So far I've only spent $11,000. The film has been super cheap with lots of donations."

Millward said he's editing in Boise and finishing the final product in New York City. He said he wants to show it to everyone who contributed and worked on the film.

He said he would like to have a sneak peak for southeastern Idaho and Boise, but won't officially screen the film because he hopes to premiere it at the Sundance Film Festival if it's accepted.

Sabina Dana Plasse:

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