Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mountain Goat Lodge featured in Indie film 'The Invisible Man'

Published in the Mountain Mail Newspaper March 7 2011

by Cailey McDermott

A low budget, eight-member film crew was in Salida during the first week of March shooting their modern adaptation of H.G. Wells' "The Invisible Man."

Based on the 1897 book by H.G. Wells, this version will be a five-part miniseries for viewing exclusively on the Internet.

"Each segment will be about 10-15 minutes," assistant director Phill Dishon said. "We hope to have it online by late spring."

Waterfoot Films, Dishon said, is an award-winning short film company in Tampa, Fla. The director of photography and assistant director attended film school together at the University of Florida and have since worked on 10 short films together.

Written by director Tim Compton and director of photography Sean Malone, the story was written with Salida and Colorado in mind.

"We love the dynamic of a small town, tucked away in the mountains," Compton said.

He said this version is "very faithful to the spirit of the original book," with two large differences.

"Wells' book took place in 19th century England," Compton said, "Our adaptation is Americanized and modernized. In our version, Griffin (the Invisible Man) is given a deeper emotional story, which strongly correlates to action of the plot."

Dishon said, "There hasn't been (a faithful adaptation) in a long time. Not one with heart."

He cited two "terrible" examples of previous film adaptations of the original - "Hollow Man" and "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen."

John Hightower, a Salida native, plays Griffin, the leading man. The crew stayed at the home of Hightower's parents during the week-long shoot. Many scenes were shot on the property.

Hightower said it was planned and coincidence that he would star in a film set in Salida.

He said, "What drew me to the character is he has a dark sense of humor I relate to. I appreciate that he operates in extremes allowing a wide range of expression."

Dishon said, "He's a fantastic actor, he brings a lot to the film. I think he enjoys the anonymity of being a faceless character."

Friday was the most labor-intensive day. The crew filmed back-to-back scenes all day, most working on one-two hours of sleep, he said.

A county sheriff's vehicle was loaned to the crew for a couple hours Friday.

Dishon said he contacted Salida Police Chief Terry Clark several times, but there was a jurisdiction problem. Although the address is in Salida, the filming was on Fremont CR 49. Dishon said he called County Sheriff Pete Palmer, who immediately agreed.

"It's extremely rare in the movie business to use an authentic police car, let alone the keys too! We can't express our gratitude more. Clark and Palmer have been so welcoming to our crew," Dishon said.

Scouting Salida and the surrounding area for outdoor scenes to match their interior filming, the crew "fell in love" with the ghost town of St. Elmo.

Dishon said St. Elmo will be "prominently featured in the film," in addition to Salida elements.

"Location scouting in the city has in no way disappointed us - on film even more so," Dishon said. "This is a fantastic place."

Malone said, "As a cinematographer, I have to say that this is the most magnificent location in which I have ever shot. It's kind of hard to mess up beautiful vistas."

He said The Mountain Goat Lodge will be the exterior for one of the previously filmed interior scenes and two police officers wear authentic Salida Police Department jackets. The patch will be visible in several scenes, Dishon added.

Salida filming was Phase II of the filming. The first round of shooting was in Tampa, where a majority of interior scenes were shot. After Salida, there will be one more scene to shoot, before editing starts.

The crew is expected to leave Tuesday.

Snow Thursday night "couldn't have occurred more perfectly," Dishon said. Crew members also have "regular" jobs, but film production is their common passion, he said.

"Sean (Malone) does everything from a barista to an adjunct teacher," he said. "He's swung a lot of lattes to buy lenses for this film."

Amy Casebolt, assistant camera person, said, "Colorado did not disappoint. Every time we walk outside, it's surreal."

Malone said, "The biggest misconception about the industry is everyone is a jerk. The biggest misconception about the process is it's easy."

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