This past summer, I began the process of co-directing a short film called “Lotus Eyes” with recent Hopkins alum, Victor Fink. This film is a piece from a feature we have been writing for well over a year and are hoping to produce the summer of 2015. The film takes place in the near future after the oil crash and follows the story of a sixteen-year-old boy named Simon who has recently run away from an isolationist cult and must now struggle to survive alone in the wilderness. At the time of this writing, we are currently almost finished with the sound mix and color correction of the short as well as a more polished draft of the feature length version of the film we hope to begin marketing to investors. In this blog however, I want to go back and talk about the production process from the beginning. After we finished a working draft of the short, we had to begin the process of producing the film with location scouting. Location scouting for “Lotus Eyes” would prove to be more complicated than any project we had ever done before. This was due to the nature of the film, which revolves around a character struggling to survive alone against the unforgiving wilderness. The locations we required had to convey this but for the final scene we also needed a location that could simulate a ghost town, a city that no longer had any inhabitants whatsoever. Searching for the proper locations proved to be one of the most difficult aspects of the entire production.
The challenge of finding a wilderness location comes in a variety of packages. First, visually, the location must convince the viewer that they are looking at the wilderness, not a state park with pleasant walking trails. Second, the location needs to have the proper ambience resembling the wilderness. The location needs to not only look like the wilderness, but sound like it as well. A state park with rustic trails may look the part, but if it is located near any busy road, or has a large group of visitors, it can not truly resemble the wilderness on screen. Finally, we had to find a location that would let us start campfires and film at night. Most state properties are very uncomfortable with any visitors after sunset, let alone start a fire. The state of Maryland seems like they want to protect their locations from forest fires.
Through sheer good luck and after many frustrating visits to numerous state parks and potential ghost towns, we stumbled upon Greenridge State Forest. Greenridge is a forest, not a park (a point they like to make quite clear) near Cumberland, Maryland. This stunningly beautiful forest is 60 square miles of pure wilderness only accessible via poorly maintained dirt roads. During our visit to Greenridge, the front office workers also pointed out that Greenridge has its very own ghost town, an abandoned boys juvenile justice camp, left barren by the state in the mid 90’s to decompose slowly ever since. In addition, they were comfortable with us filming at any time of day or night and as long as they were notified, we could light campfires. Needless to say, our decision to film at Greenridge was made almost instantaneously with excitement from both us as well as our sound team.
Printed below are some photos of our Greenridge location scout taken by our sound engineer, Jay Lujan.