SEWARD, Alaska – Heidi Zemach for SCN -
Yellowbrick Films, an independent film company with four other successful movies to its name, has selected Seward as its top choice for filming its latest production. It’s called Sugar Mountain, and will be a drama thriller in the vein of Fargo or A Simple Plan, said Director Richard Gray, speaking from Los Angeles. The story is about two brothers, down on their luck, who fake a disappearance in the wilderness so that they’ll have a great survival story to sell, but the hoax turns out to be more real than they planned.
Gray assures Seward that his company produces commercially viable movies that are run regularly in movie theaters across the country, and that they generally cast a top notch, recognizable assembly of main actors. Casting is currently taking place, and the names of the principal actors for Sugar Mountain will be announced in the coming weeks.
Their most recent film The Lookalike, was shot in New Orleans 2013. It stars Justin Long, Jerry O’Connell, John Corbett, Gina Gershon. A more complete body of its work can be found at http://www.yellowbrickfilms.net/
Yellowbrick Films’ crew is to be made up from a combination of Alaskans, as well as cast and crew members from various other states, Australia and Canada. The company will be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars locally on things like food, transportation, housing, hiring extras and actors and so on, providing some help to the town’s generally sluggish wintertime economy. They include a core production crew of about 30 of his own core people who have never been to Alaska, and who are bringing along some of their families, including his own family, and the cinematographer’s family.
They’ll be filming in downtown Seward, he said, and at this point they hope to utilize the docks and the mountain, and places where they are allowed like local houses, bars, cafes, churches, the police and fire stations and hospital.
It’s all very new and exciting for the crew, who have filmed in a variety of locations including Australia, Calgary, and New Orleans.
Until two or three weeks ago, the company had planned to film Sugar Mountain in upstate New York, Gray said. But they decided to film in Seward instead after recently visiting the Anchorage Film Festival that featured one of his movies, talking with a good friend who was involved in producing Christmas With A Capital C, here in Seward a few winters ago, and with Anchorage TV personality Dorene Lorenz, who owns a home in Seward. They also considered more than a dozen other Alaska towns, but he found this one’s scenery would add value to the film and he believed the community would be helpful and positive about the idea, as they were for his friend’s Christian-network movie. Hopefully, the film also will give Seward the chance to showcase some of its best locations and attractions to an outside audience, he said.
The film was scripted to be set in a typical small town, so it will fit with Seward in that regard, he said, but in the original script, the town in upstate New York relied on winter tourism, which is the opposite case here, so writers have changed the script to reflect the difference, and believe it will now work well here.
The backdrop of majestic mountains, Resurrection Bay, the boat harbor docks, and ready wilderness will be well worth the location change, but he estimates that it will cost about $200 thousand more to film here than in New York, Gray said. Therefore the company is seeking to find some RVs, trailers, and otherwise affordable accommodations for its crew members and actors from February through April. They will also be looking for drivers to transport people around, site location people, and extras. Extras are all treated well on all Yellowbrick productions, he said, and the results of that respectful treatment is evident on screen. They, and residents are welcome to visit the sets, and check out the filming. Gray expects that more than half of those involved in its production ultimately will come from Seward or at least Alaska.
The director will be in town January 20th to scout for sites, meet with residents and business owners where filming may occur, and obtain the permits that will be needed. The staff of Yellowbrick Films will be putting together an online data site where folks can see, and apply for the needed positions.