Exclusive: Andy Mitton and Jesse Holland Talk YellowBrickRoad
The first time this writer met up-and-coming genre filmmakers Andy Mitton and Jesse Holland, it was on the red carpet at the 2010 Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah on the eve of the world premiere of their first feature film entitled YellowBrickRoad.
In case you are unfamiliar with the premise of YellowBrickRoad (review here), let’s get you up-to-speed. The movie centers around a team of researchers that set off to discover what made the entire community of Friar, New Hampshire just up and leave their entire lives behind and head off into the woods some 70 years prior. Led by the husband and wife duo of Teddy and Melissa Barnes (Michael Laurino and The Signal’s Anessa Ramsey), the research team hopes to discover what happened to the people of Friar before they vanished. But they soon come to realize that there’s more in the woods than just a mysterious path, and now faced with more questions than answers, they all soon begin to feel the malevolent effects of traveling on the YellowBrickRoad.
Recently Dread Central had the opportunity to catch up once again with Holland and Mitton to talk about their experiences in creating YellowBrickRoad, their response to having a truly independent horror film that’s being distributed in AMC theatres nationwide and what the future holds for the filmmaking pair.
Since YellowBrickRoad feels like a film that hearkens back to the genre films of the 70s like The Shining or Rosemary’s Baby when subtle storytelling in movies truly became an art form, we asked Mitton and Holland to discuss what their approach was to creating the story and the atmosphere in the film. “We were writing the script for four years, and what we wanted to do was make a movie that reflected some of the things that really scare us because we are huge fans of the horror genre. Our goal was to make a slow-burn, character-driven psychological horror movie, and I like to think we succeeded here- or at least I hope so,” said Mitton.
Holland added, “The biggest feeling (or mood) we wanted to build in this movie was dread. It was all about the dread because we know that’s the kind of emotion we both respond to when we’re watching horror movies. Then we started researching occurrences of towns that have actually disappeared throughout the ages, and that seemed like an interesting hook for a horror movie. But YellowBrickRoad is more than just about a town that disappeared and looking for the definitive answers- it’s more the idea that there are people who would just literally walk away from it all with no provisions and what would motivate them or any of us to do something like that.”
When it came time to wrap up the story of YellowBrickRoad, Holland talked about how their open-ended conclusion seemed like a natural fit to the narrative of their storyline. “As storytellers, we wanted to create a story that engaged audiences with what they were seeing in the movie but also gave them a reason to look deeper within themselves as well. We purposely left the ending open for interpretation because this movie is about the journey- where our characters end up at the end of YellowBrickRoad is dependent on their fears and motivations. Every character ends up with a different fate because of who they are. As a viewer you know that there’s evil in the woods, but you never see it. The characters that go into the woods are clearly influenced by it even though they can never articulate just what they’re experiencing.”
Once the pair had their story in place, they knew that the next key to a successful indie horror project was assembling the right cast of actors that could not only deliver compelling performances but also had to be team players that were willing to take on an arduous and ambitious shoot in the New Hampshire wilderness.
“At first, the idea of getting this movie made seemed pretty huge to us, but we knew the key to the success of YellowBrickRoad was getting the right cast members,” said Holland. “Our entire cast was made up of people we both knew and trusted, and I couldn’t be more proud of what they accomplished in this movie.”