Locals onscreen in 'MOOSE: The Movie'
On a hot summer day, Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce events director Merry Braham enjoyed a town picnic with her husband Mitch. Alaska singer-songwriter Scott Foster played a modern rock tune on the stage. When he finished, she and Mitch clapped.
Then, they did it all over again, only this time, without making noise.
“I think it has to do with how they dub the sound in,” Braham said. “I think all movies are probably hurry up and wait. They have to reset the camera, the rails they run the cameras on.”
The Brahams are extras in a new movie by Tundra Comics creator Chad Carpenter, called “MOOSE: The Movie.” Susan Gorski, the local chamber’s executive director, also played an extra in the film, which debuts at Valley Cinema in Wasilla on April 24 for a two-week run.
“It’s going to be fun to go and see if we can find ourselves,” Braham said.
Carpenter said the movie is truly Alaskan, made by and for Alaskans, and shot at more than 40 local locations.
At an interview at Sleepy Dog Coffee Shop in Eagle River, Carpenter talked about how the movie came about, and how it blossomed from a small project into a community-made film.
Chugiak-Eagle River Star: What happened that you decided to make a movie?
Chad Carpenter: I was on my way back from Fairbanks, from a Christmas show after selling my books. I was thinking I’d love to make a feature film. The kind I like are independent films, the kind you can see people put their heart and soul into.
And I wanted to do something that hadn’t been done before. I really like creature films.“Creature from the Black Lagoon,” where it’s a suspense film with some type of entity that’s creepy. Not bloody, I don’t like bloody films. But I like films that are very imaginative with some bizarre you know negative force that somebody has to battle, and the more bizarre the better.
I wanted to keep it Alaskan. What kind of animal would you use that hasn’t been done before?
I thought well, moose. It would be so funny to try to make a moose into a bad, scary creature. He’d have to be half-man, half moose – a moose-otaur.
I built the structure of the plot in my head. It’d be in a small town. Being from a small town, I thought about well I want to use my surroundings, beautiful scenery in Alaska, and the quirky people I know.
In the movie, we call the town Gangrene Gulch. It’s quirky, like a Talkeetna-esque kind of town.
When I got home, I called my older brother Darren who lives in Fairbanks, he helps a lot with my projects. And Darren’s really good at taking my ideas and then fleshing them out and packing in the detail. I said, “Do you want to write a script with me?”
Star: You had a Kickstarter campaign. Tell me a bit about that.
Carpenter: I found the two most important things, one is on a solid four-minute video talking about what your project’s about. And you want it to have high production value so people look at it and go, “Oh, he really knows what he’s doing.” Which, I didn’t. But I had to pretend.
And the other thing was, how do you get the word out.
I was really lucky with that. For years, whenever I’ve done book signings and Christmas shows, I’ve always had an email list where people sign up on the email list and give me their information. I had years of that. I had thousands of names. When I launched the Kickstarter campaign, I sent out a notice to people on the email list, as well as on Facebook – we had 25,000 or 30,000 followers on Facebook, and I had 15,000 people on the email list. That was our core audience.
And my goal was $50,000 to raise. And about half way through I realized, we were going to make it. It was up for 40 days. And about 20 days in, I realized we were definitely going to hit our goal. And that’s when the panic set in.
I thought, I don’t have a team of people yet. I don’t know any actors except friends who say they can act. I don’t even have a camera.
I thought friends would help me and all this. But I never really sat down and said, “Hey, you wanna help me do this.”
And then I realized, oh my goodness, I’m going to jail. Or, I’m going to Mexico. But my wife wouldn’t let me.
Two days later I was doing a quick-draw at a charity event. I’m sitting there and this woman comes up to me, “I love your stuff.” I had a flyer for my Kickstarter campaign sitting next to me. She said, “Oh, what’s that.” I said, “Oh, this little movie project I’m trying to do. You don’t know any actors do you?” She says, “I’ve got one with me.”
I got her business card, and a couple days later, I was thinking, “Wait a minute, that’s the person I need. She told me she was in public relations for Valley Performing Arts.”
When she showed up (for a meeting about the movie) with her binder all organized, I thought this is what I need.
From there, Tammy (Parker, public relations coordinator for “MOOSE: The Movie,”), I call her the glue that holds the moose team together. We have a team of about 20 behind-the-scenes people, and she’s the one that’s put all of it together and saved my bacon.
Star: It’s an all-Alaska cast, and the crew are all Alaskans. Could you tell me a little about what that was like, going from a solitary art form, like making comics, to working on this movie?
Carpenter: It originally started as a movie I wanted to make, but turned into something so much better. It turned into a movie that people are making together. Almost every prop in the movie was donated. The locations were donated, buildings and cabins owned by the city of Wasilla, Crazy Moose Sub Shop in Wasilla, we use their location for an important scene in the movie, Wasilla public library, the Silver Fox Bar north of Wasilla, had a very neat scene in there. They shut down the bar for two days and said, “It’s all yours.”
So much of that happened, that it started out as a movie made by Tundra, and became a movie made by a whole community of people.
For more information about “MOOSE: The Movie,” including show times, go to www.moosethemovie.com.