KELP, LUST, DEMONS, GEESE: INDIE DEBUT FILM PORTRAYS WESTERN WA AT ITS CREEPIEST

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

After one year of writing, eight months of scouting, casting and pre-production, three weeks of filming entirely on location around Puget Sound, and several more months of editing, SKAGIT—Seattle writer/director Nick Thompson’s debut feature film—is ready to give the public its first look at the film.

On September 20, Skagit will release its first trailer, 2 minutes long, (watch it here, password: skagitfilm, link will become public 9/20), to kick off a crowdfunding campaign for the film. The trailer includes over 15 Northwest Washington locations and lead actors Taigé Lauren, Rheanna Atendido, Allen Miller and Keenan Ward and features Seattle artist Whitney Ballen’s cover of a song by Anacortes-based artist Mount Eerie. An intimate fundraising concert featuring local musicians Salt Lick and Cailtin Roberts of Hoop will also take place the evening of the 20th.

The actors play four friends who leave Seattle for a weekend in a remote, rain-soaked corner of the rustic Skagit Valley. The foreboding Fall landscape begins to warp their minds, plunging each of them into alternate realities where they must grapple with personal demons, sexual tensions, and a sinister natural world as they claw their way back to sanity.

Thompson and the Skagit producers – Leah Trangen, Hailey Williams, Tracey Breese, and Rachel Price – are launching an Indiegogo campaign to pay for post-production in time to enter the feature in festivals in 2020. Their budget is lean: $40,000 from local investors covered pre-production and filming, including modest payments to everyone on the 100% locally sourced and remarkably talented cast and crew. Now they’re raising the $17,000 they need to get this surreal, artistically risky film to the finish line. Their Indiegogo page, which includes a link to the trailer, will be available at igg.me/at/skagitfilm.

Skagit was filmed in November 2018, primarily in the Skagit Valley, long known as the tulip capital of the United States. But the bucolic valley, 60 miles north of Seattle, is a different place in late autumn, when the flower fields are muddy, the weather is moody, the days are short and the nights long. Thompson knew it would be the ideal season, and place, to set his experimental horror film. He says:

“What I hope to achieve with Skagit is broader recognition of the cinematic potential of the Pacific Northwest. Climate change and development are impacting our region, dramatically altering our psyche and culture, which gives the movie’s environmental approach to the horror genre topical as well as artistic resonance. But when I see the Northwest in feature films, it’s often with this sheen of drone-like perfection that obfuscates both the peculiar attraction of the landscape and the sensibility of the people who inhabit it. Or, its unique natural character isn’t referenced at all – it’s a backdrop in a plot-focused movie that’s not interested in pushing boundaries of the medium and being out there artistically. Skagit is a corrective to that mode: Shot entirely on location in Washington, this movie foregrounds cinematic experimentation on a low budget and the primeval atmosphere of the Skagit Valley as it molds, terrifies, and eventually destroys the minds of the four friends.” Thompson cites contemporary directors Carlos Reygadas and Ana Lily Amirpour and the late Krzysztof Kieślowski as major influences for the film.

Skagit draws deeply on the creative capital of Washington State. Thompson, 27, was born and raised in Seattle and is a graduate of the Evergreen State College. The four characters were written to reflect the diversity of Thompson’s native South Seattle. The lead actors, also all in their twenties at the time of filming, have been seen on many Seattle stages, including the Seattle Repertory Theatre, the 5th Avenue, and Book-it Repertory Theatre. Lauren and Atendido both studied theatre at the University of Washington and Miller is a graduate of the University of Washington’s Professional Actors Training Program. Ward is a graduate of Cornish College for the Arts. Nearly all of the producers, executive producers, and production crew also have local roots.

24 locations in all were used, in Skagit and four other Northwest Washington counties: Whatcom, Island, Snohomish, and King. 50 locations were scouted. An additional 10 locations were used for b-roll. Filming was completed in 17 shooting days, 1.5 pickup days and several b-roll days, after eight months of pre-production. Prior to pre-production, director/writer Nick Thompson worked on the script for a year. 30 actors were auditioned for the four lead roles, and the 11 supporting roles were cast separately.

Executive Producer Rachel Price on Skagit:
"While the horror genre is certainly having a moment, that was not my motivation for investing in Nick’s film. After talking to Nick and Leah and reading the script, I was completely on board. The characters are authentic, the dialogue rings true, and the story is mesmerizing. It’s gratifying to see more and more filmmaking take place in Washington state, and I think Nick’s film, with its fabulous use of unmistakably Skagit sites, is a marvelous representative of the kind of film that can come from nowhere but here."