Parkite makes horror film to challenge Hollywood
Director Jeff Chamberlain, who has called Park City his home for six years, has a beef with Hollywood.
He’s tired of the "formula filmmaking" that churns out horror movies filled with blood, guts, sex and profanity.
That’s why he has decided to make his own horror movie that goes against that in-your-face philosophy and is appropriate for younger teen audiences. That’s why he made the movie "The Mine," which is currently being shown in a limited release at Thanksgiving Point and the Megaplex in South Jordan.
"My goals and objectives were to make a good horror film that was not R rated, but PG-13, because of the enormity of the challenge and the arrogance of Hollywood in saying something like this cannot be done," Chamberlain told The Park Record. "I’m driven as a person, more than anything, as one who will take on seemingly impossible challenges."
"The Mine" follows a teen named Brad and his friends as they decide to stay overnight in the Jarvis Mine. Brad wants the night to be a memorable event that he shares with his friends before they go their separate ways after graduation.
The catch is that on the same night 100 years ago, a gold miner named Billy Jarvis and his two daughters were attacked by claim jumpers and buried alive.
In order to create a film that will captivate an all-ages audience and show Hollywood it can be done, Chamberlain, who attended Brigham Young University and graduated University of California Los Angeles, set up some parameters as guidelines.
First, he didn’t want to make an R-rated film, so "The Mine" is rated PG-13.
"I wanted the film to appeal to the younger teen audiences," he said. "I do want 13-, 14-, 15- and 16-year-olds to come see the movie."
So, he left out the nudity, sex and profanity that have become a staple in the horror-film genre.
"All of that is gratuitous and does nothing at all as far as pushing the story forward," he said. "There is no reason to put those things in, unless you set the film at a brothel or something like that. And even then, why would you want to do that?"
Secondly, Chamberlain didn’t want to spend a fortune making the film.
"You can make a great movie and don’t have to spend $100 million on it," he said.
"The Mine" is based on the old-school thriller philosophy of past directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick and Tod Browning where the horror is implied, said Chamberlain who has worked in Hollywood for 35 years as an actor, writer and producer.
"What I’ve seen over these years is a pattern for films that Hollywood likes to pop out," he said. "In so doing, they, of course, appeal to the least-common-denominator of the population in easily pulling people into the theater without real creative thought and storytelling."
These days Hollywood is all about sequels, the storytelling gets the short end of the stick, Chamberlain said.
"That means the stories are being told in a certain way and a formula is developed and everybody buys into it," he said. "Believe me, there are some creative people in Hollywood, but when it comes to mass-market, those creative types are required to approach things in a non-creative way. They go for a safe hit, and that’s why sequels are so important. Hollywood is putting hundreds of millions of dollars at risk and they can’t afford to take risks."
That’s insulting to Chamberlain.
"The intelligence and sensibility of the youth in our country is far superior and noble than how Hollywood treats them," he said.
So, Chamberlain wanted to take some risks in "The Mine."
Since the characters and not the special effects would be carrying the film, the first thing Chamberlain did was to make sure they had depth and substance.
"When Hollywood creates youth characters, they usually cut them out of the same mold," he said. "Sure there are some exceptions, but for the most part, the characters are two dimensional, but they are justified because of the success of these types of films."
Chamberlain also wanted to stay away from the language and the cynicism that is so readily found in the other horror films.
"I wanted my characters to have a certain vulnerability and humanity," he said. "More than anything I wanted to spend time and create realistic characters. I’m not interested in cardboard clichés and, hopefully, when people see this film, they will be introduced to characters they care about and understand, rather than the ones you can’t wait to see killed."
That’s why the film is set in a small-town.
"I did that purposely because the setting gave me the ability to make them authentic without giving them the kind of excessive, urban-culture sensibility," Chamberlain said. "This is a story about authentic kids with real problems."
Chamberlain also avoided the typical gimmicks such as the setting up and executing of cheap and unnecessary scares that are found in horror films.
"You have those scenes where the camera follows behind someone or people sneak up on their friends," he said. "I tried not to do a lot of that, because it’s just part of the formula."
Chamberlain and his crew filmed mostly in Utah.
"There is a great mine in Ophir in Iron County where we shot," he said. "The Utah Film Commission was very supportive and we had a great crew."
Additional shots were taken in Death Valley, Calif.
The project has been a challenge for Chamberlain, but a welcome one.
"It’s like I’m David going up against a Hollywood Goliath," he said. "It’s been a nitty-gritty fight all the way, but the experience has been a huge effort."
Chamberlain said his crew was gauging the number of people who attend the screenings at the two theatres for marketing purposes.
"If we are able to post high averages of screenings that week, then we’ll expand from there," he said. "It’s like an independent film. We’ll start small and then see if we can grow. If one of my little pebbles hits Goliath in the head and he falls, then it would be great. We’re right there with the pebble, looking Goliath in the eye."
"The Mine," rated PG-13, is now playing at the Larry H. Miller Megaplex at the District, 3761 W. Parkway Plaza Dr. in South Jordan, and at Thanksgiving Point, 2935 Thanksgiving Way in Lehi. For more information, visit http://www.themine.info.
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The Park City lodging industry in recent weeks experienced an uptick in projected occupancy numbers during the dates of the Sundance Film Festival, but the figures remain depressed from a typical year during the largest special event on the city’s calendar.