Local actors, scenes populate ‘subtle,’ ‘no-budget’ movie
By Ann McCreary
After pouring thousands of hours into creating his first feature-length film, Terry Hunt is ready to share it with the public.
Hunt, a Twisp musician, composer and filmmaker, will present a public screening of his film, Haiku, on Saturday (Feb. 7) at 7 p.m. in The Merc Playhouse in Twisp.
“I’ve been working on it four days a week for a year. Some days it’s a 14- or 15-hour day,” Hunt said this week.
“I’ve probably watched it 50 times now. I’m not objective at all. But I like it,” he said.
His “no-budget” movie features local actors, local musicians and local settings. In fact, Hunt began writing the script last January with a specific cast of local residents in mind, and was gratified when they agreed to become part of his vision.
“People believed in it from the beginning and hopped on board,” despite the promise of no pay, Hunt said.
The movie has been a labor of love for Hunt, who is self-taught as film producer and director. He has learned most of what he knows from reading and taking on-line classes about filmmaking.
Haiku was inspired by Hunt’s growing disenchantment with movies and television programs that “need to have 10 explosions and five grisly murders” to be considered entertaining, and whose characters exemplify greed and dishonesty, he said.
“I’m tired of the portrayal of characters becoming more and more debauched,” Hunt said. By contrast, the five lead characters in Haiku “are likable and inspirational,” he said.
Hunt said he sought to create a film that subtly explores relationships and personal transformation.
“I chose a Japanese theme, albeit very loose, because Japanese culture and arts have historically placed a great emphasis on subtlety,” said Hunt, who has lived in Japan.
Haiku is about “re-sensitizing” people to subtlety in a world where much of the media “is about beating us over the head to get a reaction from us,” Hunt said.
The story focuses on a jaded reporter who travels from Seattle to a remote valley to interview a once-famous 1960s beat poet who has become a recluse. During his stay in the valley, the reporter makes unexpected and transformative discoveries about people, relationships and nature.
“The view of this movie totally reflects the views of this filmmaker. So much of it is me speaking through the characters,” Hunt said.
Hunt credits the actors — Donald McLane, Danbert Nobacon, Laura Love, Lynx Vilden and Tara Dod — for bringing his characters to life and making them “even better than I wanted.”
Hunt employed what he called “guerilla filmmaking” to film the movie — “set up quickly, maybe a rehearsal, then lots of improvisation.” He used headlamps, battery-powered lights and reflectors to light the scenes, because many were filmed in outdoor locations with no electricity.
After filming, Hunt discovered that the audio for the film was unusable in many essential scenes that were filmed next to the Twisp River last May. The background noise of the fast-flowing river drowned out the dialogue.
Hunt faced the challenge of re-recording all the dialogue in his studio. He transcribed the spoken lines and the actors recorded their words as the film rolled, doing their best to synch the words with their mouths and actions.
“We pretty much did that for every line in the movie,” Hunt said, adding that recording audio after a film is shot is not unusual. “They do that in a lot of movies. I can see that now when I watch them.”
Saving the computer
In addition to the audio challenge, Hunt had to deal with near-crashes of the computer he uses to edit the film. “At one point I thought I was going to lose the whole project,” he said.
And when he and his family evacuated their home on East County Road during the Carlton Complex Fire in July, the computer that he uses for film editing was one of the few things Hunt grabbed before leaving his house, which survived the fire.
As a musician, Hunt worked hard on creating the soundtrack for the film. “The music really came together quite nicely,” he said. The soundtrack includes music by Hunt, Vilden, local guitarist David Weidig, and a band called Windlestraw that includes young local musicians, including Hunt’s son Galen.
Hunt has shown the film to two focus groups to gather input and edit accordingly. As he prepared to present his film to the public this week, he was still finding things in the 68-minute film that he wants to edit.
“I’ve gone from a million things I want to do to 40 or 50. I’m exhausted, actually. I was up until 3 a.m. finishing what I thought was the final cut and realized there are about 50 more sound edits I need to do.”
His exhaustion, however, isn’t preventing Hunt from looking ahead to his next project.
“I’m thinking about the next film, and I have local people in mind for it,” he said.
Prior to Saturday’s screening of Haiku, Hunt will show about 20 minutes of a recording of “Burn: Stories of the Fire,” which was performed at The Merc on Nov. 22. Admission to the screening is $5 for students and $10 for adults.