After working on the project for more than a year, senior Chandler Ryd is preparing to release his first short film. With the help of former student Josh Hamilton, a few professional actors, and a couple of production companies, “Into the Plains” is almost ready for the big screen.
“Into the Plains” is a 25-minute film written, produced, and directed by Ryd, in which he explores the nature of grief through a mother who loses her child and embarks on a road trip.
Hamilton, a former fellow Simpson Dormitory resident, said he immediately offered to help with filming and production.
“I agreed to work on the project before I read the script. Chandler is a Simpson man. That means we have a duty, within reason, to help each other. I have aided Chandler on past projects, and he has aided me,” Hamilton said in an email. “It was clear that the script came from Chandler’s heart, and friends — Simpson boys — support noble endeavors of the heart.”
Even senior Beau Jarett, another former Simpsonite, came on set for a day to help his friend.
With the script done and the crew set, Ryd had to select four cast members. Ryd found his lead actress, Maggie Alexander, a New York-based theater and film actress, through an organization called Breakdown Services. Even though Alexander contacted Ryd two days after the deadline, Ryd let her send a self-taped audition.
“And then it turned out that she was amazing. I saw that one tape and thought, ‘Yes, this is it. This is the one.’ Even just from maybe the first 10 seconds, I was pretty sold,” Ryd said. “For Anna, the main character, it wasn’t that the other actresses were bad, I just didn’t think that they quite understood the character and they didn’t quite have the subtlety that the role really needed.”
In her preparation for the character, Alexander spent an afternoon decorating a crib with her imaginary child’s name and birthdate and then scraping his name off the wood, tearing the crib apart, and eventually throwing it away.
“I went pretty far down the rabbit hole with this film. At the end of each filming day, it was hard to shake it off completely,” Alexander said in an email.
But her preparation led to a believable performance that Ryd said he felt captured the character.
After selecting the cast, Ryd decided to film in his hometown of Colorado Springs over Christmas break. After one rehearsal day to bring all the cast together to talk through the script and get to know each other, they spent four long days of filming.
Ryd originally planned to film independently with the help of Hamilton and a few other friends, but a production company discovered his script online. Access Media Group offered to bring its own professional equipment and help with the filming, all for free.
“A week before shooting I had a production company reach out to me and wanted to help me out. They all volunteered their time and gear for free,” Ryd said. “If I had paid them like a normal job, I would have had to pay them like 15 or 20 grand. And so they were just so generous and I was just so blown away. And they really helped elevate the scenes that they did shoot with us.”
Even with the help of AMG, the days of filming were intense and not free from hiccups.
The first scene was filmed on a cliff, which meant an hour-and-a-half drive into the mountains and then a race against the setting sun to get the scene filmed. They finished the scene and headed back to Colorado Springs, but Hamilton had left a lens on the cliff. So Ryd and Hamilton had to drive back to the mountains.
“This was at about 9 p.m. that we realized this and we had a 5 a.m. call time for the next shoot day. I get a coffee, he gets a monster and we just drive up into the mountains,” Ryd said.
After finding the lens, then watching the car die on them on the last leg of the trip back home, Ryd, Hamilton, and the crew still got the next day of shooting done on schedule.
“I was never super stressed about it. It gets to the point when you’re shooting something, just nothing really stresses me because things always go wrong and we always seem to figure stuff out,” Ryd said.
With the filming finished and the edits almost done, the last step is to add the post-production sound, which another professional company offered to do. Ryd hopes to complete “Into the Plains” by late June and to release it at a film festival in the fall.
“It’s going to be way better than I ever thought,” Ryd said.
In the meantime, Ryd is already thinking about his next film.
“Of course there’s another movie,” he said. “I already have it in my head.”