No one would argue that the Idaho filmmaking duo of producer Andrew Ellis and writer/director Will Schmeckpeper isn't prolific.
With six full-length features in seven years (including Pizza Man vs. The Dude and The Highly Contested Election for Payette County Sheriff), the two have consistently hit the mark in creating humorous, exuberant flicks that embrace the DIY spirit of independent film. And they're getting faster at it. Their latest production, the horror thriller Thirty Proof Coil, was shot in only six days.
Filmed in and around Boise and New Plymouth in 2010, it's a sly cinematic treat anchored with a solid lead performance, tongue-in-cheek pop culture references and a blood-pumping story that embraces the ball and chain of a low budget.
Rock 'n' roll progeny Calico Cooper--her father is Alice--plays The Woman, a gutsy naturalist taken from her tent during a solo camping trip and chained to a post in a remote barn by The Man (Tate S. McCullough). What follows is five days of intense captivity, where The Woman must battle The Man, her own psychic chimeras and one very large, very toothy Shaggy Man. It's a battle of wits, grit and grim grotesqueness that plays out--effectively--within a 30-foot radius.
"I liked the idea of taking a smart woman who just so happens to find herself in a lousy situation and then has to think her way out of it," said Schmeckpeper. "That's why it was such a roll of the dice to cast Calico sight unseen. She had to carry this movie, and any lesser of an actress wouldn't have brought enough game to do so."
Cooper, who came to the project after Schmeckpeper sent her an unsolicited email, is on screen for nearly every second of the film's 120-minute running time, and there's not a wasted moment. She delivers a sucker-punch of a performance, with bristling physicality and a desperate charm as she cheekily considers how Bruce Campbell or Alice Cooper might confront their captor. McCullough, a longtime Ellis and Schmeckpeper collaborator, provides a measured, appropriately emotionless showing that gives ballast to Cooper's frenetic energy.
Like their 2010 adventure Vagabond Lane, Thirty Proof Coil demonstrates the indomitable independence of Idaho cinema: less slick studio production values, more earnest enthusiasm for clever camera work and great stories.
"I would hope that Idahoans would recognize that there are good movies grown here by local people," says Schmeckpeper. "People that they can actually interact with, even become part of the process with."