Pinedale roundup | A very lively independent film in Cheyenne

CHEYENNE – It might seem like there isn’t an indie movie scene in Cheyenne, but there is – you just have to look for it.

Over the past 10 years, there has been a resurgence of special interest from the youth of Cheyenne and surrounding communities. Independent cinema operates underground, but it may not be for long.

“The community is alive, the community is great,” said independent filmmaker Anthony Syracuse. “It’s just difficult because there are maybe, if I’m nice, 200 people who are willing to participate and show their support.”

The Midnight West Fest which was held this past weekend is one of the few local independent film festivals featured in Cheyenne. Of all the films released this year, few are from Cheyenne residents, but among those few films is Syracuse’s most significant effort to date.

At 22, Syracuse is one of many local filmmakers trying to build community support for the independent film scene in Cheyenne.

“You would think that in small places like Wyoming, or any small town, there wouldn’t be a huge artistic presence,” Syracuse said. “At least in my experience I have found he has a huge one, but no one can stand it.”

The film, titled “Saint Bernard”, after the song that inspired Syracuse throughout the writing of the screenplay, tells the story of a superhero who has lost his superpowers. The 26-minute short with a budget of around $ 6,000 then follows the hero in his personal struggle in therapy as he attempts to cope with his sudden perceived inadequacy.

Syracuse knew this script was different from the reaction it received. The concept alone caught the attention of others, but when his family and friends read the script, they admitted it was the best job he had done in his years of scriptwriting.

Even foreigners have come to like the idea. On a trip to Ohio, he spent every day perfecting the script in a seating area outside his hotel. Eventually, nearby construction workers approached Syracuse, curious as to what they had seen him work on each day. Glancing behind the glow of his laptop screen, Syracuse told him about his movie.

“They got so interested that that night I had eight construction workers that I had never met before reading my screenplay,” Syracuse said. “All around that electric fire outside the hotel, we were reading while I was leading them and taking notes… then they all bought plane tickets to come and see the movie.

Whether it was his family or his friends, Syracuse received various interpretations of his screenplay. Some thought it was a commentary on religion. Her mother wondered if this captured the disillusionment of growing old.

The main character’s journey is not of a particularly lofty spirit. Syracuse jokes that the characters he writes either redeem themselves in the end or suffer a tragic demise. Most often, it is the latter.

He approaches all of his work with a legitimate introspection, but for “Saint Bernard”, he must have identified a complicated feeling. Then the concept took hold.

“The things I didn’t like about me were the things I stood up for,” Syracuse said. “The things I’m not sure about, the things I use to make myself feel better, I felt like taking those things away was like losing a super power.

“So I thought to myself, what if a superhero loses his super strength, can’t lift a bus anymore, and can’t stop bullets?” I was like, ‘They would be in therapy.’ “

We are far from his first screenplay, but it is certainly his most complete, as well as his longest feature film shot. Since the age of 13, he has written, filmed, and starred in his own films, many of which are variations of superhero tales.

He’s used to making films on his own, as many young independent filmmakers do, but for “Saint Bernard” Syracuse needed help to capture his creation as he saw fit.

His close friend Matthew Stacey, who served as cinematographer, as well as one of the producers on the project, was a key part of the “Saint Bernard” team.

“Every shot you see in the movie was drawn by Matt as a storyboard and planned specifically by him,” Syracuse said. “We would have long conversations about color correction, how we want colors to appear in shots and how we want shots to be laid out. “

The hardest part of working with a group of this size is the sudden need for compromise. Sometimes the shooting of “Saint Bernard” was disorganized; short scenes that typically require a four-hour shoot suddenly turn into 12-hour days.

Ultimately, Stacey is happy with the product, especially noting the performance of lead actor Dominic Rufran, the concept of the film, and the set design for the film.

Although he was the director of photography for “Saint Bernard”, Stacey is himself a filmmaker. In 2016, one of his shorts won five of eight awards at the Cheyenne Youth Film Festival, where he also met Anthony for the first time.

In 2017, two of his films were accepted at the All-American High School Film Festival in New York City. In 2020, he helped Syracuse shoot a Netflix special that Syracuse was chosen to direct, but never took off.

Now Cheyenne resident Stacey is studying English at the University of Wyoming, intending to make a career out of her writing skills. The cinema remains his first passion, he can therefore reflect with precision on the role of cinema in Cheyenne, despite his young age.

“There are a few things, like the local short film festivals, that help us, but it’s all pretty underground,” Stacey said. “If you happen to find other people who share this type of passion in Cheyenne, it’s almost by accident. You fall on it. They are difficult to find, simply because there is no particularly large outlet for them.

Stacy’s solution is to network for the Cheyenne film community. He plans to create a social media page and spread the word about what local filmmakers are doing. Better yet, he hopes to set up more frequent film festivals that people can attend.

Part of the problem is the simple fact that this is a relatively new scene in Cheyenne. There are no older generations of filmmakers or a Cheyenne film community that newcomers can lean on.

“I would say he’s underrepresented, but I’m not sure what the appropriate level of representation would be for that in a small community,” Stacey said. “A lot of friends that I made who are also in this field, I met in school, whether in high school or university. I really don’t know if there are many generations. older, at least to Cheyenne, who are interested.

However, that can start to change. Stacey has spent the last two years attending film school at Central Wyoming College in Riverton, where he has met many other filmmakers from Cheyenne and Wyoming who are looking to return and build a local independent film scene.

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