The Prairie Dog Drive-In enjoyed another successful season this summer having held their final movie on Friday, Sept. 11.
The movie which closed the season was the same one to have opened it: Dark Forest. Two members of Zell-Koj Studio of Winnipeg who created and produced the film attended the Prairie Dog's showing of the movie.
One of the producers, David Zellis, who focused on raising the funds for the movie, organizing the shoots, and now marketing the production was around as was Craig Guiboche the movie's cinematographer, editor, and post-production of the film.
The Observer had the opportunity to speak with Zellis and Guiboche in how Dark Forest came to be.
After having spent numerous years in the film industry in various forms, four people including Zellis and Guiboche, along with Shelley Anthis (producer and casting director) and Roger Boyer (director) came together to compete in CineCoup – a competition to help indie filmmakers develop, market, and produce feature films.
Film trailers that reach the top five in the competition, they are shown at the Banff Media Festival, while the trailer that receives first is funded and shown in Cineplex theatres.
Although they didn't crack the top ten in CineCoup with their trailer for Dark Forest, they did decide to continue following their dreams and pursue the film regardless.
Out of the approximately one hundred trailers submitted to CineCoup, Dark Forest is one of the only films to actually come to fruition, other than the winner of the 2013 contest, Wolfcop.
“It kind of changed as we were making it,” Zellis explained. “But it's a horror film with a female lead.”
“Roger Boyer the director takes a minimalistic approach,” Guiboche said. “Horror/slasher films are usually minimalistic, a killer in the woods doesn't require a large budget.”
The music and picture was influenced by John Carpenter's style of films, which includes the famous horror film, Halloween.
The film score was created by James Hofer, who set the mood accordingly, creating great suspense.
The story follows Emily, a young woman in an abusive relationship. She decides to plan a camping trip with her best friends and sneaks away for the weekend. Her boyfriend, Peter, becomes furious and tracks her down in the woods, killing anyone who gets in his way.
“We're very grateful for Ray to take a chance on our movie,” Zellis added, “the drive-in experience is awesome, we grew up in them, and it's the perfect place to show our film because it's an 80s style horror film.”
The two explained that Winnipeg has a fairly involved film industry and a lot of the productions based in Winnipeg are co-productions with larger companies.
“This is what makes our film unique; it's 100 percent Canadian made, all of the cast and crew are from Winnipeg,” Guiboche said.
It was filmed near Teulon, MB, and was shot on a $5,000 budget.
“We did take it to a Los Angeles market/sales distributor who has contacts at theatres, there was interest but it wasn't picked up, so we became the distributors by default,” Zellis said. “We're doing the work now and trying to spark interest in a distributor, which is why we're so appreciative of people like Ray [Boutin] who take a chance on us.”
“The guys showed up and I admired their persistence and entrepreneurialism,” Boutin explained. “We opened the summer with it and now we've closed the season.”
“They sought us out and presented us with an opportunity, so we seized it. It's very good, I applaud how well it's done, for a $5,000 budget it is very well done. It's not my genre even, but I found it very entertaining and the fact that it is a group of young people, Canadian made following their dreams, you've got to encourage that.”
Although Zell-Koj Studio is in its infancy, they have further plans surrounding Dark Forest, which are focused on creating DVD and Bluerays, as well as potentially finding a full Canadian release across the country.
They plan to further pursue their dreams with a second movie which they are looking to find funding for called, “Frackin' Zombies!” This movie made it into the top 10 of CineCoup this past year and although didn't win is promising. Guiboche is hopeful they will begin filming next year and be able to release it soon after.