Thriller Out of the Woods, the second feature from Brisbane-based The Initiative Production Company, is a model of how to shoot films for very little money.
Carlin Sterritt plays Will Denovan, a once-thriving real estate broker who wakes up in the middle of a vast forest with wounds in his abdomen and no memory of how he got there.
The character is forced to relive his past, which includes a fractured marriage to Robyn (Tahlia Jade) and an addiction to prescription medication, as he struggles to survive and find a way out of the woods.
The producers raised the $35,000 budget from crowd-funding platforms, mostly Indiegogo. Directed by Jason Solari and scripted by Solari and Brenden Bell, the shoot last year took about two and a half months in various locations in Queensland including Ocean View near Mount Mee.
The cast deferred their fees while the crew, most of whom were interns, donated their time and efforts.
“One of the aims for The Initiative Production Company is to be a stepping stone for filmmakers trying to break into this industry,” producer Charis Joy Jackson tells IF.
“Instead of having them start out by going to get us coffee, we gave them real roles and responsibilities. For example, one intern was the unit production manager. It’s a great opportunity for them to use the skills and knowledge they’ve begun to learn and put them into practice while we guide and continue to strengthen their skills.
“The entire production crew including myself donated our creative equity. Our company is made up of full-time volunteers.”
The producers applied for Screen Australia funding but were knocked back as some full-time volunteers filled key crew positions.
“Still, we really enjoyed networking with Screen Australia. They have an incredible heart and passion to build film in Australia,” she said.
The cast included Kyal Scott who played Tom, Will’s adversary, Susan Stenlake, Charles Sells, Dale Gibson, Tom Sucic and Payten Boik.
Founded by Solari in 2008, the production company’s first feature The Umbrella featured Josh Potthoff as a guy who uses an imaginary umbrella to protect himself against life until he is convinced to use a real umbrella.
Distributed by Queensland-based Heritage Films International, the drama was released online in the UK and US by Flix Premiere and is available in Australia/New Zealand on iTunes, Telstra, Google Play, Microsoft X-Box, Sony PlayStation and Fetch TV.
“We don’t make films to make money. We love what we do and sacrifice our time and pay in order to focus on making something excellent that affects society in a positive way,” Solari says.
The writer-director says the original concept of Out of the Woods dealt with a character for whom the woods represented a physical place where he could to learn how to feel again.
“There are so many family elements in this film and it’s something I’m passionate about exploring,” he says. “Family dynamics have the ability to alter the course of our lives so exploring the relationship between Will and Robyn was incredibly fun to develop.
“Over half of the film takes place in the woods with one character. I wanted to take on a more nuanced script and immerse myself in a world where communication was so much deeper than words.”
It’s a multi-platform venture with plans for a novel based on the film; a soundtrack by Nashville-based composer Kyle Cox (who also worked on The Umbrella) for release on iTunes and other platforms; and an online documentary on the making of the movie.
As for the film’s release strategy Jackson says,:“We have a relationship with distribution partners and our previous distribution outlets are very interested in the film upon completion, but we will be shopping it around.”