NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A Drury High School graduate is hoping to bring his dream — or, more appropriately, his nightmare — to film life.
The horror film "The Uncredited," written by Nick Burchard, will be filmed in North Adams this spring, pending fundraising and the COVID-19 pandemic. Burchard's Tiny Viking Productions is making the film in conjunction with Sancha Spiller and Kasey Rae of Skylah Productions of New York City.
"I grew up in the area, and I've always appreciated the historical places, in particular the Hoosac Tunnel, Mohawk Theater, and the old mills," Burchard said. "I think North Adams has a very unique setting, with the mountains surrounding the city and of course, all the steeples.
"The Uncredited" follows a young woman who appears in an independent film. While watching it, her friends notice something disturbing in the background of her scene. This leads to rumors and distrust in even the closest group of friends.
"My goal is to make great characters, and even though it's a spooky thriller the characters in it are just friends sitting down to watch a movie together," Burchard said. "They crack jokes, roast each other, and are all collectively trying to have a good time … but that juxtaposed with the realization that one of them might be hiding something is what creates the thriller edge to this. I think it's really fun."
Spiller added that the film does not rely on horror tropes such as jump scares. She said the screenplay is character-driven.
"It showcases our greatest fear of not knowing the people around us as well as we think," she said. "It makes us second guess who we trust and remember that just being in the wrong place at the wrong time can have horrifying consequences."
Burchard was heavily involved in the theater program and the performing arts at Drury. He said the high school helped him become a well-rounded artist. He said he learned everything from rigging up lights to comic book illustration.
After graduating in 2016, Burchard went to college in New York City, where he worked as a production assistant for a Skylah Productions set and met Spiller and Rae.
"We really respected each other as artists, became friends from there and gained a mutual admiration for each other's work," Spiller said.
Burchard later moved to Los Angeles where he established his own production company, Tiny Viking Productions.
"I focused a lot on building my portfolio of scripts and pitches," he said. "I reached out to my friends at Skylah Productions, and we felt like this would be the right project to collaborate on and we went from there."
Burchard said once the pandemic hit, he returned to the area and started writing. The plot of "The Uncredited" came to him in a dream and he's used the down time to write.
"I had the idea for a short film about these friends sitting down to watch an obscure movie one of them was in, and they see something strange in the background of a shot," he said. "I couldn't get this idea out of my head, so I wrote it how I write most of my projects. I focus on the characters in the story first. I try to make sure they are the most interesting parts of the script. If the characters hold strong POV's, their stories will flow naturally, so that's typically what I focus on when writing. I'm also an illustrator, so I storyboard the script after I write it."
The film in its entirety will be shot in North Adams and Burchard plans to utilize a local crew.
Burchard and Spiller are still raising funds to make the film a reality. The crowdfunding will wrap up in the few days and so far is about 73 percent to their $8,150 goal.
"The next two weeks are pivotal in getting the film off the ground. Now is truly the time where all donations to the film big and small make all the difference," Spiller said earlier this week.
People can donate on the film's Seed & Spark page. More information can also be found on the crowdfunding platform.
Spiller said the hope is to begin hiring cast and crew and begin shooting in April. She added this is all dependent on the state of the pandemic.
"From a filming standpoint, we're taking COVID incredibly seriously. Our goal is to film in the safest environment possible," she said. "We'll have PPE gear readily accessible and mandating masks and social distancing on set. Although of course if needed we will push back our shooting date. The safety of our cast and crew is our top priority."
Burchard said the plan to enter the film into the festival circuit and ultimately show the film on a streaming platform.
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MCLA Presents Vadnais Environmental Issues Lecture with Vivek Shandas
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts will present the annual Vadnais Environmental Issues Lecture with Vivek Shandas at 6 p.m. on Sept. 23 in Murdock Hall Room 218. A remote viewing option is also available.
Vivek Shandas is a professor of climate adaptation and the founding director of the Sustaining Urban Places Research (SUPR) Lab at Portland State University. Professor Shandas specializes in developing strategies to reduce exposure of historically marginalized communities to climate-induced extreme events. He has published over 100 articles, three books, and his research has been featured in the New York Times, National Geographic, Scientific American, and other national and local media.
Professor Shandas serves as chair of the city of Portland's Urban Forestry Commission, technical reviewer for federal and state agencies, and a board member on several non-profit organizations.
The interactive panels function as both classic blackboards and as interconnected collaborative screens that can allow teachers and students to interact remotely, save lessons and access and edit documents on the fly.
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