War vets, a cabin near the woods and a plot for revenge are integral parts of a film set to shoot in and around McDowell this summer.
“The Thin Red Circle,” currently in pre-production by Wilmington-based production company Mad Wolf Studios, is a feature film planning to shoot at Spring House Farm in Marion from June 15 through July 12.
During a location scout last week, co-directors/producers Chris Shaw and Harrison Moore sat down with The McDowell News to discuss the upcoming project.
“We love the community,” said Moore. “We love how friendly everyone has been. We know people who speak very highly of this place and that this would be a good place not only to film at, but obviously the actors and crew are going to be around downtown and interacting with locals, so we wanted them to be in a good environment as well.”
The film centers on a combat veteran (played by actor T.J. Shaw) returning from service in Operation Enduring Freedom to take a road trip to his grandfather’s cabin with his fiancé and childhood friends. However, while dealing with the trauma of returning from combat, a figure from his grandfather’s past – an ex-POW from the Vietnam War – reemerges and seeks revenge on the cabin dwellers.
“It’s kind of a genre flip,” said Moore. “We start with this really intense war drama, then it becomes this thriller and goes downhill from there.”
“At the beginning, you see the seeds of him fighting in Afghanistan and then see him come home and have to deal with this stress,” said Shaw.
Pulling inspiration from military-based films such as “Black Hawk Down,” “The Hurt Locker” and “American Sniper,” Shaw and Moore expressed a desire for the film to expand beyond its entertainment value and raise awareness to issues prevalent to veterans returning from service, from post-traumatic stress disorder to psychological and financial resources available upon their return.
“We wanted to incorporate those films into what happens in the aftermath, and our character does struggle with that at night,” said Moore. “He wanted to be a career-long soldier, that’s what he wanted to do and then instantly, at the snap of a finger, his brother’s gone, he’s an amputee now, his military career is over and he’s struggling with, ‘What happens after?’ Some get left in the tracks and some get left behind.”
“We just talked about topic that matter right now,” said Shaw. “Things that are going to help people’s mindsets right now, so it goes beyond just watching a movie. We’re storytellers and we want to entertain, but we want to make things for the better and make a quote-unquote ‘difference’ in the world. That’s why we started this production company.”
The two directors, both currently from the Wilmington area, offer a unique dynamic in terms of their filmmaking approach: Moore, the comparatively more vocal of the two, takes influence from Quentin Tarantino and serves as the performance-based actor’s director of the film, while Shaw, reflective and concise in his comments, said he’ll commandeer camera movement in the vein of Wes Anderson and Alejandro González Iñárritu in a more visually based approach.
“We complement each other pretty well,” said Shaw.
In deciding where would be the appropriate location for the film, Shaw and Moore came to the conclusion to shoot in McDowell due to viable filmmaking and economic resources both in North Carolina and in the county.
“We chose this city because one of our corporate attorneys and their family comes from up in this area,” said Moore. “We planned on shooting in the Asheville/Boone area, but we saw the [Spring House Farm] property and just wanted to keep it into a local community.”
According to the duo, 70 percent of the film is scheduled to shoot in McDowell, with the remainder to filmed between Greensboro and Atlanta, Ga. Outside the perks of filming primarily in-state and with nearby connections, the two also stressed that the production would serve as a valuable economic commodity.
“A lot of people don’t understand that that these films come to a community and it trickles back down to them,” said Moore. “Local catering, local restaurants, hotels, mom and pop gas stations--”
“I talk with him about this all the time,” Shaw interjected, “but ‘The Walking Dead’ brought Senoia [Ga.] to life in a strong way. That town was very, very small, didn’t have a lot going on. They brought their studio there and their sets there, and now it’s just ‘Walking Dead’ territory. There’s so much tourism over there.”
Thus far, the production has reached 80 percent of its estimated $250,000 budget, with active campaigning still underway and talent negotiations undergoing this week. According to the directors, actors such as Sid Haig (“Kill Bill: Volume 2”, “The Devil’s Rejects”), Alexander Ludwig (“Vikings”, “Lone Survivor”) and Jackson Pace (“Homeland”) are in discussion for supporting roles.
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