Indie Filmmaking: Summit the Movie Pt. 2

Summit Cover

At the beginning of March I traveled to New York City to interview to independent filmmaker and director of Summit Christina Raia and actor Lauren Ashleigh. I posted the first part of this article quite a few weeks but hit a few snags with updating it. Between starting a new job and lots of Canadian film coverage plus the deeply confusing nature of my own notes I wasn’t able to get it done in a timely fashion.

When I spoke to both Christina and Lauren Ashleigh in New York, they both talked about the rarity of truly strong female characters in the horror genre. It was very important to Christina that the cast get along well, which Lauren reiterated definitely happened. Much of the cast have become great friends, often getting together in the New York City area to have horror movie marathons and other social activities.

Lauren plays Jesse, the girlfriend of another character Sean. Jesse, whose grandmother passed away recently, is younger than the other characters and kind of tagging along with them.

Summit Christina

The other day I got the chance to catch up by phone with Christina Raia, clarify a few things and chat about what she has coming up in the future.

Blog: Can you tell us about how production went on Summit?

CR: In total we were shooting for about 11 days out of the 16 days that we were on location. It was incredibly hectic because the first two days were devoted to building our process trailer for all the driving scenes; which was really just kind of a U-Haul with a flatbed that I put my car on and we kind of built a platform for my cinematographer to stand on. We had looked up a tutorial online but it was definitely DIY [do it yourself –Greg] and sort of dangerous. But luckily it worked; nothing bad happened in that regard and my cinematographer John is on the side of this car as we’re going about 15-20 miles per hour on these icy wet roads in pitch black in the woods in Massachusetts. It was great, we managed to get really awesome driving scenes that look really professional and steady on a really limited budget; and I have to thank my grip for that because he actually built the platform and it was sort of his idea of how to do it safely. So in general we lost two days just to the building of that that so we were kind of playing catch up, and that’s why we ended up shooting these ridiculous hours [In my previous conversation Christina told me they filmed for 25 hours their first day on set –Greg]; and not sleeping.

It was an interesting shoot because in the beginning it was kind of one disaster after another but they always kind of worked out; it was just me having to make some really tough decisions on the spot. It was hard balancing this idea of being a producer and procuring everything needed with being the director who wanted to get more artistic-type shots. I really had to compromise a few times but in the end we got everything.  We definitely had a lot of disasters. Like the whole process trailer thing, luckily no one was hurt building this giant thing but it did get stuck on a hill the first day of shooting and we lost about three hours in the middle of the night trying to figure out how to get this thing of this icy hill. That was a huge headache.

Other than that I wouldn’t say we had a smooth production, but we definitely were productive and we got everything we needed and the crew was just brilliant. Negative ten degree [Fahrenheit], running out there and setting up the lights. My gaffer was awesome, just my camera crew in general were really awesome. But it was definitely an experience. I know Lauren mentioned there were 20 of us living in this house on top of each other and that was almost like we were living the film in a way. As things became more horrific in the film tension grew on set; though that’s sort of to be expected on a film shoot, especially when you’re so low budget and living on top of each other. It was interesting because we sort of formed this bond over how much we hated what we were doing but also loved what we were doing. Luckily now nobody hates me for putting them through that and a lot of them are working on “Kelsey” with me. I definitely thought there was a possibility that everybody would just hate me by the end of it because of the weather and stuff that kept going wrong and the crazy schedule that we were on.

But ultimately production was a success and it really is a miracle. We had a budget of less than $20,000 [USD], we shoot it in technically 11 days and we had such a skeleton crew. My camera department was 5 or 6 people. But that just speaks to how brilliant John is; he made the lighting look beautiful. Obviously in a horror film you don’t need truly beautiful lighting but he was still so incredibly creative with lighting and collaborating with him was awesome.

Blog: So where did you film?

CR: The majority was in Lennox, Massachusetts. Then some of the driving stuff was in Canaan, New York. And we did some interior shooting in North Adams, Massachusetts.

When we would go the gas station people would ask us what we were doing there, if we lived in the town. But what’s great about pretty much anywhere outside of New York City is that local people find it awesome when they come across a film crew; they are excited and interested. In New York City people basically say oh more film people, I hate them, get them out of there. Anywhere outside of that people are very open. We had a lot of people come by when we were shooting at the gas station. Luckily the woman who owned was getting ready to go on vacation so she basically shut it down for a day and let us shoot there. So we had a lot of people stopping by thinking it was open because we were there and then they would ask us questions. That was in Canaan, New York.

Blog: So tell us about your upcoming webseries, Kelsey.

CR: It is based on one of my best friends, whose name is Kelsey and she is the writer of the series. It started because she was dumped by her ex-girlfriend and we were going out to dinner maybe two months after. And she was in such a bad place, you know how you are after break ups [I know of it intellectually –Greg] you are in such a terrible place. She was just very self-deprecating even though she is one of the finest people I know, but she was making fun of what she was feeling at that time. She told me this really ridiculous story about meeting this girl at a bar and that is pretty much the pilot episode of the series. She was telling me this story and I thought it was hilarious.

It had been in my head for quite a while that I wanted to do a webseries focused on New York City, young people sort of like mid-20s being in that place where you don’t quite know where you’re going, but you’re out of school and in that middle place. [Kelsey] told me this idea that was really interesting and incredibly depressing but in a hilarious way. But it’s also very relatable and would probably hook people and also has an entire audience that is very untapped I think at this point, especially on TV, in regard to her being a lesbian. I thought that would be a great central character to focus on. Anyone can relate to post-breakup feelings but then you also have this audience that doesn’t really have much network TV being targeted to them.

So we started talking, I pretty much proposed the idea and she said she loved it. Like I said she’s a really great writer and she’s hilarious and we have always been talking about collaborating; but I was still pretty busy with Summit. So that was last summer and I kind of put it on the backburner during Summit but I knew we were going to do it immediately after. So after Summit for about three weeks I just slept and recovered and then we jumped right into pre-production [for Kelsey] and started writing scripts together. She was the main writer but we were coming up with storylines together and I am the director and co-producer.

After the first episode it kind of goes off in a different direction; it’s not completely her life. It pretty much is initially this idea of what do you do post-breakup, how do you get back into the dating world, how do you recover from having your heart broken and open it back up again? But also what is it like to be in your 20s in Brooklyn in 2013 and how is dating different in regards to online dating and text etiquette and things like that.

So there you have it folks! There is still some audio left that I may turn into a part three but for now this concludes our series on the indie horror film Summit. 

Summit’s webpage can be found here and they can be followed on Twitter here.


~ by The Falling Skies Blog on April 30, 2013.

One Response to “Indie Filmmaking: Summit the Movie Pt. 2”

  1. […] There you have it folks, the first in my installment on the indie horror film Summit. Check out part 2 here. […]

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