After the wonderful experience and relative success of my first feature Spring Forward, I had a few frustrating years of false starts with other films and screenplays but was lucky enough to sustain my creative energy with theatre, poetry, and teaching. Again encouraged by Jim McKay, I began writing The Cold Lands. The idea was to bypass the gerbil wheel of eternal development in the ‘indy’ film world I was stuck in and devise something I could make for almost no money, with a very small crew and cheap locations.
My girlfriend and I had begun refurbishing a collapsing 100 year-old farmhouse in the Catskill Mountains with a local contractor, so I began sketching out a story based on dreams I’d had about a kid living on his own in the woods. Paul Mezey was now my partner/producer and we designed a film that would be largely improvised, shot in sequence in the woods around my house, with a skeletal crew and a very lax shooting schedule, a kind of ‘wake up each day and decide what to shoot’ production.
I’d written a 25 page outline and began improvising with 11-year old Silas Yelich, a local kid who lived at the bottom of the mountain my house was on. We met every two weeks for a year as I taught him the basics of acting. By the time we began shooting, Mike Raisler, Andrew Goldman, and Phillip Englahorn of Cinereach had agreed to finance the film with the caveat that I envision a more traditional screenplay and production process.
It was an extremely trying shoot as my amazing crew navigated the remote locations, a 12 year old in the lead of his first film, and Hurricane Irene. Cinematographer Wyatt Garfield, editor Julia Bloch and actor Peter Scanavino became personal friends and long-term creative collaborators. The film premiered opening weekend at the Berlinale 2015 in the Berlin Opera House and Silas later won an award for his acting from the Nashville Film Festival. He is now a videographer.