Crew works on independent film in Pagosa Country

By Dana Hayward

Staff Writer

Photo courtesy Doug Chapin Director Ian McCrudden talks with lead actress Maggie Elizabeth Jones on the set of “Girl In The Lake,” a film about a young girl traveling the country in an RV with her father. Parts of the independent film, produced by McCrudden’s Epiphany Pictures, were filmed on site in Pagosa. Photo courtesy Doug Chapin
Director Ian McCrudden talks with lead actress Maggie Elizabeth Jones on the set of “Girl In The Lake,” a film about a young girl traveling the country in an RV with her father. Parts of the independent film, produced by McCrudden’s Epiphany Pictures, were filmed on site in Pagosa.[/caption]

Filming of the independent movie ”The Girl In The Lake” took place on site in Pagosa Springs during the second half of October.  After filming in Maine for a month, the cast and crew began shooting in Pagosa, a familiar place to director Ian McCrudden of Epiphany pictures, whose parents live here.

The cast includes young star Maggie Elizabeth Jones (“The Party,” “We Bought a Zoo,” “Footloose”) from Atlanta, Ga.  Jones plays Katie, the lead role, in her first independent film.  Thomas Hildreth (“Islander,” “Numb3rs”), who owns his own production company, Sternman Productions, plays Katie’s father.  Hildreth was attracted to the film partially because he and McCrudden had worked together previously to produce “Islander.”  Actor Ted Levine, famous for his role as Buffalo Bill in “Silence of the Lambs,” plays Chief Edwards, the sheriff, and Tonantzin Carmelo plays Kiah, an ally to Katie and her father.

Produced by Ian McCrudden, Thomas Hildreth and Athena Lobit, the film, adapted from the Chris Fabry novel “June Bug,” is the story of 9 year old Katie who travels the country in an RV with her single father.  The plot takes a turn when Katie sees her portrait on a missing child poster and realizes that her father could actually be her kidnapper.  Meanwhile, Chief Edwards, who is also Katie’s grandfather, works to discover the truth about Katie’s life.

The SUN was able to speak with McCrudden, Jones, Hildreth and Carmelo during filming last month.  The director and cast discussed how the movie has been adapted from the book, why changes were made, what attracted them to the script, and the characters they play in the film.

In his interview, McCrudden explained that he was hired by a producer at Sony to do a film adaptation of the book “June Bug,” so source material for the film was predetermined.  He did explain that he was attracted to this particular story anyway.

“I liked that there was a nine-year-old lead,” said McCrudden, “I liked the idea of making a movie about a kid that would appeal to kids and adults.  It’s a family oriented movie with a mystery side”

McCrudden also explained that his attraction to a child lead stems from his being a father of two kids, ages 7 and 9.

“The emotional heart of the movie is a nine-year-old girl finding out everything she knows about the world,” said McCrudden, explaining how the character Katie would be relatable for audiences.

Jones also joined McCrudden for the interview.  She explained that she began acting following in the footsteps of her older sister, Mary Charles Jones.  Although she is young, and this is both her first lead and first independent film, Jones had a lot to say about her experience in the film industry.

“There are more people involved with making big studio movies, so things take longer,” said Jones, “I know more people here.”

Jones also discussed her acting job from a more personal perspective, explaining that it can sometimes be hard to put herself in the role of Katie, because there are so many emotional scenes in “The Girl In The Lake.”  Jones also mentioned that her favorite part of being on set in Pagosa was jumping into the cold river at The Springs Resort and Spa.

McCrudden also explained how and why the movie script is different from the book “June Bug,”  discussing how creative choices caused the plot of the movie to diverge significantly from the faith based book.

“The movie has a spiritual element,” said McCrudden, “but it’s not so on-the-nose.”  Unlike the film, the book isn’t constructed like a mystery because it is written from the point of view of the main character.

“I also changed character names and ethnicities to make the story more authentic to this areas and others where we are shooting,” said McCrudden.  The places in the movie are real, not fictional like those in the book.  McCrudden explained that putting the story and character in the context of actual places makes it more authentic and relatable.

Another important change McCrudden made was to have Chief Edwards be not only a sheriff investigating Katie’s case, but also the girl’s grandfather.

“Deciding to make the sheriff character the grandfather adds higher stakes to that part of the story,” said McCrudden, “that way the character has a more significant connection to the case.”

Hildreth, who has worked with McCrudden before on the film “Island,” which they co-wrote and directed, also spoke with The SUN about his work on the film.

“The original story was unfilmable, it had lots of tangents and more characters than could be developed,” said Hildreth, “the trick was to condense.”  Although the plot of the movie diverges significantly from that of “June Bug,” each starts and ends with similar circumstances.

McCrudden also talked about the community support the cast and crew received during their filming.

“Everyone has been cooperative and helpful,” said McCrudden, specifically mentioning his friends at ReSport and Two Chicks and a Hippie, two filming locations.

As they move to film in California, McCrudden and his cast and crew will continue working to convey a story utilizing familiar places, a practice that McCrudden believes lends authenticity to movies.

The film, being produced by Epiphany pictures, McCrudden’s production company based in Pagosa, will likely be sold if Epiphany doesn’t partner with a distributer.  As such, McCrudden was unable to provide a release date.  McCrudden did explain that he hopes to make more movies in Pagosa and that he is currently working to develop a plot that centers on the local ski patrol.