If Will Schmeckpeper were going back to school this fall, he'd have a great story to tell about what he did on his summer vacation. The one-time high school English teacher (and BW contributor) is now a filmmaker, and he spent this summer making a movie in and around Boise. That's pretty much cooler than any summer camp story.
The new film, now in post production, is called Vagabond Lane. And because it's not yet done, you likely haven't heard of it. But you might have heard of the last film Schmeckpeper wrote and directed, Pizza Man vs. the Dude, an '80s-style horror story about the world of high-speed pizza delivery.
Vagabond Lane is a different kind of film. For one, crews did all the filming on weekends over the summer, only about 20 total days. Pizza Man took more than 30 days of filming. Schmeckpeper says Vagabond Lane was exceptionally tiring, partly because it was shot quickly and partly because the filming was mostly outdoors in the forests and high deserts of Idaho.
Vagabond Lane is about a girl named Carrie who is in an abusive relationship with her stepfather. After her mother dies, she runs away from home and meets a guy named Vagabond Joe. He and Carrie wind up going into the forest, but it isn't any old forest (and I don't believe it is like any forest in Idaho); it is a magical forest where things aren't as they seem. And in the magic of the forest and with Joe's help, Carrie learns how to deal with conflict and how to be a self-actualized person instead of a victim.
Local actress Chelsea Scheets plays Carrie. Scheets is a 17-year-old at Boise High School, so she actually can go back to school with a cool summer-vacation story. However, Scheets didn't initially get the part as the film's star. "Chelsea was one of my extras at first," says Schmeckpeper. But the actress slated to play Carrie didn't work out, "and there was something about Chelsea, so she got the job instead."
In fact, as with Pizza Man, almost all of Vagabond Lane's crew and cast are locals. Actor Gary Winterholler plays Vagabond Joe. "He and I worked together on a lot of things in the past," says Schmeckpeper. "Most people know him from Prairie Dog Theater."
Schmeckpeper, 36, wrote, directed and produced the film on his own. Actually, the University of Idaho graduate did a little of everything. "When you do a movie on this level, you wear a lot of hats," he says. "I carried equipment, cast people, brought food for craft services."
Schmeckpeper says he "always knew" he would be a writer, back to when he used to make his own comics at age 5. Though the concept of Vagabond Lane didn't begin quite so far back. Last summer, Schmeckpeper and writing partner Andrew Ellis began writing and looking for funding for a project they had started. It was a totally different script at the time and, says Schmeckpeper, "Personality conflict got in the way. For this part of the project, we went our separate ways."
Ellis then began work on another project with local filmmaker Travis Swartz that ended up being the recently finished comedy Norman Waiting. Schmeckpeper began the Vagabond script in January and it took him only three weeks to finish. As for Ellis, he and Schmeckpeper had no rift, he assures. The two are still friends and partners--they're even producing another horror movie.
They are also partners in North End Films, a Boise-based film production company that has created more than 25 motion picture projects since 2002. The group of independent filmmakers was originally just a partnership between Ellis and Schmeckpeper, who had been making short movies for only six months at the time of NEF inception. In 2003, Ray Chacko joined North End Films and the ball was rolling.
With the NEF projects and the making of Vagabond, Schmeckpeper says it's been a busy summer. Filming ended in late August and Schmeckpeper can now start editing, and though it's going to be a while before he is done with all the post-production work, he says he had a great experience. "I'm looking forward to seeing how other people's personal views on the experience compare to mine."
First up in post-production is the rough edit and the sound. Interestingly, the soundtrack is being composed by local Grammy-nominated folk singer and storyteller Rosalie Sorrels. "It'll be different than what we've heard from her before," Schmeckpeper says. "This will be more traditional, unaccompanied vocal tacks, a real haunting sound."
The film should be completed in November, just in time to start the film festival circuit. Schmeckpeper says distributors are looking into the project, but no matter what, the film will show in Boise. The man certainly has a plan for this Vagabond.