No stranger to the acquaintance of Hollywood's makers and shakers, due mostly to Sun Valley's star-studded rap sheet, our quaint state has seen plenty of smiling silver screeners in recent years. Let us not forget how Seabiscuit and The Bourne Supremacy had downtown all atwitter, or how homegrown Napolean Dynamite blew up with eerie cult-status. Like a sweetly crooning starlet, who through a combination of dumb luck and the promise of serious talent continues to steal the spotlight, Boise shines unabashedly in the filmmaking business. In May, Super Red Pictures began carving another notch into our burgeoning filmmaking community's belt when filming began on Autumn Angel.
Two years ago, Autumn Angel was little more than an ambition being carefully plotted and collected into scribbled notes by two Kuna High School graduates. By October of this year, the full-length feature film that sprung from those handwritten outlines will be Super Red Pictures' entry at the Sundance Film Festival. And script to screen is no small feat, especially for a group embarking on its first full-length film adventure.
The idea for the psychological thriller began with friends Michael Gough and Mike Davis. After some initial brainstorming, the two commissioned Jared Fairchild and Darrell Boatwright to join the development team. Boatwright and Fairchild wrote a script, the foursome moved ahead with production, held cast auditions and then the project began to crumble atop a foundation built without enough preparation or experience.
Take two was some time in the making.
Gough explains that after a false start, Autumn Angel was shelved for a few months until Boatwright and Fairchild dusted it off and began the serious script and story revision in order to submit the script to Project Greenlight, a yearly scriptwriting contest.
"It didn't make it far in Greenlight," says Gough, "but it did give us a start into something bigger and better."
When Gough started attending classes at Boise State last fall, he enrolled in an independent film class and the how of "bigger and better" slowly materialized. Autumn Angel's pre-production work was completed through a class workshop. Class instructor Heather Rae invited industry professionals to teach various aspects of project development, further solidifying the groundwork that was missing the first time Autumn Angel moved into production. After its Greenlight revisions and some attention in class workshops, Autumn Angel had a crew of nearly 30 people, pre-production work was swiftly moving and Gough had met two helpful additions to the crew: Andrew Ellis, whom he'd met at Small Pond Films screenings and Micah Roland, whom he met at the True West Cinema Film Festival last year.
Cast auditions were held for a second time on March 5 of this year and finally, on May 13, the handwritten notes that evolved into the script and eventually into a class project were one step closer to becoming a film as shooting officially began.
Though shooting this summer is scheduled exclusively on the weekends, Gough's weekdays are also devoted to the making of the film. Since his job description includes the titles of executive producer, editor, cinematographer and director, his work is a hefty load.
"Nearly 100 percent of my life revolves around this movie," says Gough. "This is my job and no, I'm not getting paid."
In fact, the film has been so time consuming that Gough recently left his job at Idaho Public Television and quit a part-time job to devote his attention to Autumn Angel. Unemployed, clearly Gough isn't funding the film from the pennies in his piggy bank; the funds required to back the project were donations and everyone involved in the project volunteers time and talent.
Most of the money in the budget has been spent on acquiring equipment necessities like a camera, editing software, music writing software and the little things like costumes, props, make-up, digital video tapes, lights ... the list goes on, even though the money may not. Ellis donated the use of a dolly track and glidecam (which, for the tech-talk challenged, are two very useful pieces of equipment for filmmakers) and all of the actors donate their spare time to shooting.
An enthusiastic Kyle Morris, who plays the lead role of Adam in the film, sings the praises of Super Red Pictures. "I don't think anything has been done like this in Boise so far," he says and explains that he gladly gives up his weekends for shooting and his post-work weeknights to prepping for the weekend's upcoming scenes.
For 20-year-old Morris, who landed the lead role at a nerve-wracking audition despite having been prepared to read for the supporting role, Autumn Angel is also his first foray into the making of a full-length film. However, his rookie status was no obstacle for a confident Morris as he prepared for the role of Adam.
"I found many aspects of myself in him and made him more bitter," he says and then admits to practicing facial expressions in the mirror to ensure that they are convincing. If Morris is holding out hope that fame and superstardom will be his reward for months of volunteer acting, he doesn't betray those secrets. He's optimistic for Super Red Pictures and only hopes that the film does well at Sundance.
As for Gough's expectations, getting a submission together for Sundance is only the first hurdle. Autumn Angel won't be ready to premiere until the first half of next year, and regardless of its success locally or at Sundance, Gough is hoping it will be the beginning of many projects to come.
"We have high hopes for Autumn Angel," confesses Gough. "If nothing else, I hope that it will become a catalyst for [what] we intend to do next with Super Red Pictures."
Exactly what Super Red Pictures' next project is, Gough does not say. He does, however, champion Idaho's future role in the movie making business by boldly reminding us that, "Mainstream movies don't have to be produced in Hollywood alone. We can do it right here and right now."
Whether or not Idaho will eventually become the office of the silver screen as opposed to a playground for its elite remains to be seen, but with ambitious and eager filmmakers like Gough and company at Super Red, anything is possible.