A gang of rogue, blood-stained filmmakers has been carousing around Cortez shooting video for a low-budget horror flick.
Josh Mason, a Dolores native and former sociology instructor at Pueblo Community College, is the director and writer of the film, but he’s keeping most of the details secret.
“I can’t really talk about specifics plots but I can say that it is a sociological examination of violence in American culture,” Mason explained in a phone interview. “It is in the style of a mockumentary, so the idea is to distribute parts onto the Internet as if it is real.”
In low-budget movie parlance, the style relies on “found footage” or scenes shot from public areas like city parks and national forests, or anywhere the public has access, including stores, malls, colleges, museums, gatherings, and concerts.
For three weeks, Mason and his posse of special-effects artists, student actors and gangs of extras have been shooting scenes, some of which obviously fall into the blood and gore category. “GloryKilling,” the film’s working title, is a not-so-subtle clue of the film’s dark underpinnings.
“We’ve been running around like mad, putting to work the artists and actors in the community, operating on 2-3 hours of sleep,” Mason said.
Unauthorized filming can be a legal gray area, and takes a crew with a rebellious spirit. There are no model-release forms for innocent citizens passing through a shot, permission is not sought when big-box store footage is required, and occasional trespass may not be out of the question.
“We’ve definitely had some weird looks in the park,” he laughs, recalling bodies falling to the ground with realistic-looking bullet wounds.
Casting auditions are ongoing and have brought in 50 extras from Durango, and another 40 from the Cortez area, Mason said.
“The local talent here has been wonderful,” he says. “There are so many kids here with no opportunity like this project, so they are really loving it. It is amazing how hard people will work for gas and food!”
He raves about lead actors Zoe Pike and Michael Wilber who are “just killing” their roles, figuratively and probably literally as well.
“They have got the pulse of the film. Zoe looks like Marilyn Monroe and is knocking it out of the park with one of the best performances I’ve ever seen.”
The film uses satire as a commentary for the propensity of youth to become brainwashed and anesthetized by electronic media — from Facebook and Internet addictions to YouTube and Reality TV habits.
“We’re definitely playing with that,” Mason explains. “We live in such a video-saturated environment, where teenagers are so accustomed to video feeds. So we are trying to tap into that consciousness, to test if they can tell the difference between what is legitimate and what is not.”
Keeping with the tradition of low-budget horror was the easy part. Mason sank $15,000, his life savings, into producing the film, and his enthusiasm for the project and confidence in the final product are intriguing.
“Looking through the footage, it is without a doubt going to work, and we are a communal group so if it makes it big, those who really pitched in will share in the wealth,” he says.
Mason describes filmmaking as an amalgamation of different arts: poetry from the heart, cameras are the eyes, the actors are the soul.
“My job as the conductor of the orchestra is to get everything to sync together into something beautiful and interesting.”
The history of low-budget horror films shows the potential for success exists. In 1977, David Lynch’s nightmarish film “Eraserhead,” reportedly made for $10,000,became a cult classic. “The Blair Witch Project” grossed $248 million and was made for $22,000, and the popular science fiction flick “Primer” was made for $7,000.
“With today’s digital revolution, special effects that George Lucas had 30 years ago are available to people like me and my crew,” Mason said. “The sky is the limit.”