Against the unassuming backdrop of a plain beige sheet, a group of local actors used their voices to build a lush forest and cavernous cave in a cramped corner of Hyde Park Books Jan. 26. Author Alan Heathcock narrated the script for the forthcoming screen adaptation of his short story "Smoke" to an audience that filled all the available chairs and stood in aisles and between bookshelves to listen.
With locals David Cowen reading the part of the story’s protagonist, Vernon, and Arthur Glen Hughes reading the part of his father, the packed house was treated to the careful adaptation that stays true to the original story. Vernon is awakened by his father, who, bloody and bruised, needs help to hide the body of a man he has killed.
Tension builds as the two struggle under the weight of the man on their way to a mountain cave where they can hide him. Throughout the journey, Vernon comes to the realization that he does not know his own father. In a vision, he sees his childhood hero, Roy Rogers (read by Nick Garcia), who helps him see that his father’s sin is not his own. When Vernon and his father finally deposit the body in the cave, they burn it, filling the cave with dark smoke.
Following the reading, audience members asked questions and gave constructive criticism about the script. Local filmmakers Stephen Heleker and Cody Gittings spoke about the process of adapting the story and their plans to bring it to life in a new medium.
According to Heleker, the pair chose to adapt "Smoke" because of the cinematic style of Heathcock’s writing, and because the “clarity and detail of the story lend themselves to the screen.”
Heathcock also spoke up, saying he was pleased so far with the progress of the project.
“I think they did a nice job,” Heathcock said. “There’s going to be future conversation about how to translate some of the subtleties of the story to visual cues.”
Heleker and Gittings also revealed their plans for the future production of the short film, including a soundtrack inspired by such films as There Will Be Blood and Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man. Additionally, they hope to construct a set for the scenes shot inside the cave so they can more accurately capture the cathedral imagery portrayed in Heathcock’s writing.
Ultimately, the pair acknowledged that the project is ambitious, but they believe it's within their reach.
“Indie guerilla filmmakers are used to doing certain things on a budget and this story just isn’t one of them,” said Gittings. “I think it demands these grand, cinematic qualities.”