I have to admit, I had no idea how I would react seeing the film adaptation of the late late Eureka resident and gifted playwright Susan Bigelow Marsh, the intriguing drama “Autumn Run,” which was world premiered on stage in 2001 in his Plays- Ongoing performance space above the Lost Coast Brewery in Eureka.
The original screenplay was co-created by Bigelow Marsh with Janice Goldberg, his artistic collaborator on a number of plays first produced at PIP (and directed by New York native Goldberg). They were then successfully staged by companies across the country, all of which I reviewed for the Times-Standard or Humboldt Beacon.
However, “Autumn Run” always stood out to me, and at the time, it was my choice as “Beti’s Best Outstanding Production of 2001”. He earned this well-deserved recognition through the artistic council for many reasons:
• The cleverly constructed, “mysterious” script.
• The four main actors who played the estranged brothers of a family.
• A significant supporting actress (on the “questionable manner of whose death” the plot twisted and turned).
• Equally remarkable was the challenging scenic design with a “real river with running water”. It flowed past the family’s now vacant fishing and hunting cabin, built with open walls, which exposed the action taking place inside.
• There was also live music played and sung by one of the actors, which was weaved in and out of the action, but (like all dialogue) was still constantly underlined by the white noise of running water of the river during its “Autumn Run” of invisible salmon returning home to complete part of their life cycle – just as family members were brought back to end an unresolved tragedy that had impacted their life for 10 long years apart.
All of the above is what obviously fascinated accomplished local actress/producer/director Carol Lang so much that she felt inspired to ask playwrights (at some point almost 20 years ago) if they would give him permission to adapt the play’s script into one for a movie. They did it.
Although the talented Bigelow Marsh sadly passed away in 2013, Goldberg was still available in 2021 to give Lang (and his film script adaptation collaborator, Dawn Bressler) artistic/creative input regarding their (finally ready) film version. to produce) of “Autumn Run”. .” It was one that would be made entirely by a talented cast and crew of Humboldt County actors, technicians, and musicians.
The end result of what has become a three-year artistic journey for Lang was the film which had its world premiere last week. It took place at the historic minor theater of Arcata (in the midst of a steady downpour of enough rain to ‘revive’ a dry river bed for a salmon run). The intimate venue, with its large screen and excellent sound system, was ideal for the live (hidden) debut of the film.
However, as I discovered before the screening after watching a video provided by Lang (who not only co-adapted, but produced and directed the film), the original script for the scene had (courtesy Goldberg) changed in some key aspects. characters. Now there were no longer four brothers in the separated family, but three brothers and a sister.
Obviously, this changes the gender dynamics in their already turbulent family relationships which gives the storyline different nuances in how they behave towards each other, and (perhaps even more so) why – as they now have to decide whether to sell. or not the old holidays. cabin in order “to bury the memories of the violence that took place there”.
It also means that the utter macho vibe of the brothers always competing (to live up to their late father’s “outdoors” persona) has now become a less obvious defining aspect of each of them (including their feisty sister) apparently still yearns to live up to it as they revisit the family’s riverside cabin and surrounding forest.
Another significant change has been made to the order in which the plot begins. The film’s action now opens by the river with a shocking girl, “accidental?” the shooting death (one of the brothers being the “apparent shooter”) which only occurs in the play towards the very end. Therefore, the film jumps back and forth between past and current events and challenges you to keep up.
There was also another key character, a supporting character added – a wise Native American elder named White Hawk, whose words to the brother sentenced to prison for the shooting, are now the basis of his actions returning to finally share the truth. of his actions: “Retreat as far as you need to go forward.”
All of the above is as much as I want to tell you what happens during this turbulent story of a broken family and each member’s passionate journey to hopefully heal their individual and collective pain and anger when they both admit and find out what is true. Although love cannot always conquer everything, at least sometimes understanding can.
So do the film’s reimagined changes to the characters and the flow of the hidden reveal of the tragic plot question alter the emotional impact of the original stage version? My answer to that is a firm “no”. It’s also well done and poignantly powerful – well cast themselves who inhabit their roles with fundamentally solid performances. (Although the real star of the show is the jaw-dropping beauty of the Mattole River Valley itself – perfectly photographed by Matt St. Charles.)
Is it a technically perfect effort, for the first time, on the big screen at any time? Not always. The sound mix (when the actors speak) sometimes rings hollow, and the obviously extremely talented actors still seemed to occasionally exchange lines in a room rather than
having believable conversations with each other.,
Interestingly, however, the only previous “non-actor,” Joseph LeMieux, delivers his few essential and memorable lines as White Hawk with surprising natural skill. He’s a real unexpected diamond in the rough in the ensemble.
Filmed on location at the Mattole Camp and Retreat Center (with strict COVID-19 precautions in place) last November in a remarkably short 15-day filming schedule, the cast had been cast and in rehearsal several months in advance. (with the exception of Jesse March) so that they are well prepared for their roles. And, they stayed there with the film crew from start to finish, continuing their scene rehearsals between the actual shooting of the scenes.
In any case, here is the list of the names of this intrepid and intrepid cast and production team (as well as those who did all the post-production work to visually and sonically enhance what was done on location):
• “Autumn Run” lead roles: Brothers – James Gadd (Rob), AJ Hempstead (Ben) and Jesse March (James) and Sister Queena DeLany (Philomena)
• Main supporting roles: Marguerite Hockaday (Tracy) and Joseph LeMieux (White Hawk)
• Minor supporting roles: Ranae Zeller (Little Ben), Valerie Sanford (Mother) and Spike (Dog/Kalani).
The film was produced and directed by Carol Lang for CLANG Productions and the executive producer is Dawn Bressler. It was adapted for film by screenwriters Lang and Bressler (based on the play by Susan Bigelow Marsh and Janice Goldberg). Associate producers are Howard Lang, Alan Olmstead and Laura Rhinehart.
The director of photography and lighting was Matt St. Charles; first assistant camera/gaffer, David Thompson; sound engineer, Bruce Paz, Northjetty Productions; film editor, music supervisor, sound design, animation director and color grading, Alan Olmstead, Sirius Studios; music, John Howarth, David Lynn Grimes and Jeffrey Smoller; design director and mistress of properties, Laura Rhinehart; costume designer, Denise Ryles; costume assistant, Rosemary Smith; makeup artist/designer, Karen Echegaray; production assistant, Kira Gallaway; script supervisor, Jake Holper; pole vaulter, Kevin Harris; handle, Corwin Shrewsbury; and motorcycle instruction, Jack Ridlon.
All in all, there were only a few production tweaks needed to get this promising first film produced by CLANG Productions ready for Lang’s “Autumn Run” submission to some small existing film festivals looking for new ones. works from new local film companies.
It’s certainly already a thrilling murder mystery film (appropriate for mature audiences, due to the many four-letter words added to the play’s original dialogue), which constantly holds your interest.
So heed the wisdom of White Hawk and “Go back as far as you need to go” and check out its trailer on YouTube.
But, before you do that, check out all of its intriguing background details at autumnrunmovie.com.
As Lang promised underage audiences during a Q&A that took place right after the film wrapped (along with several other cast and crew members), this will be the first of the films by more local talent than it intends to create. This is certainly a determined local artist, who could well be on the path to eventual cinematic success if she continues to follow. Once you experience Lang’s film for yourself, you’ll believe it too.
And, I’m also sure that if Bigelow Marsh were still around, she would be giving her artistic blessing to the compelling film that her piece became when premiering her 2021 “Autumn Run.”