Tunkhannock-based film wins award
When directors Ryan Wood and Todd Oravic first saw Harding’s flats, they knew it was the perfect location for their film.
‘Pitchfork,’ which was filmed in 2012 on farmlands off Route 29 going into Tunkhannock, is an aesthetic short-film truly capturing the essence of country living, and people are starting to take notice.
At the West Cheszter Film Festival on April 27, Wood and Oravic won ‘Best PA Filmmakers’ for their diligent work in shooting the 14-minute film, which was shown to audiences on April 25.
The duo, who operate under the name ‘Fenner Productions,’ said the location enhanced the film tremendously.
“We saw it and just thought, ‘This is the most picturesque, perfect farm that we could possibly ask for for Pitchfork,’” Wood said. “It was important for us to represent how beautiful that kind of landscape can be, which is something that a lot of people take for granted.”
The script was written by Kevin Conner, who holds his Master’s in Screenwriting and works as a manager at the New Shoe Store Plus in Tunkhannock and Towanda.
When they first read it, Wood and Oravic were blown away.
“Without giving away too much, it’s a story about a farmer who’s losing his cornfield to this devastating drought that’s sweeping the whole country and, at the same time, his marriage is kind of shriveling up, in a very similar way, and he just sets a course of action to fix it,” Wood said. “So much about the story is the deception of it.”
Oravic added, “The big part is, during his course of action in trying to make things better, we’re not really sure what his intentions are.”
The team held open auditions to pick the two lead actors, the farmer and his wife, and settled on Mike Lally, a firefighter in Scranton, and Alicia Nordstrom, a psychology professor at Misericordia University.
When the actors were first united after being chosen for the parts, the directors were treated to a pleasant bit of serendipity.
“They auditioned separately and, when we got them together after we told them they got the parts, they greeted each other as old friends - they knew each other and had played husband and wife in many theater productions before,” Wood said. “They had no idea that they had separately auditioned for it.”
But then came the tough part - finding a farmer who was willing to let college students take a few liberties with their cornfields, which included tearing up a roughly 20 foot by 20 foot parcel of corn and lighting several torches in the fields.
Conner suggested Harding’s Flats, being that he was regularly exposed to it on his way into and out of Tunkhannock.
The Hardings, as anyone in this community would expect, were completely cooperative with the idea and, in about a week, the majority of the shots needed for the film were completed.
“We literally just went up, knocked on their door and said, ‘Listen, we want to make a movie, we don’t have a huge budget so we can’t pay you guys a lot of money - do you mind if we shoot here?’” Wood said.
For those who may wonder how safe it is to light torches in the middle of a cornfield at the end of a long, drought-ridden summer, rest assured that the directors took full responsibility in calling the Emergency Management Agency and Triton Fire Co. to alert them of the activity.
“I can’t thank enough the kind folks who opened their homes and land to us for filming, especially the Hardings. Their beautiful property was the perfect setting for this film, and gave the story a backdrop that couldn’t be duplicated elsewhere,” Conner said.
What’s next for the film is uncertain.
Though they’ll continue to enter it into festivals to gain exposure, the team is beginning to get the ball rolling on actual distribution of the film.
The project was funded entirely by Kickstarter, a platform for creative projects to gain sponsorship by simply making a plea to the online community.
Going in with a goal of raising $2,500, they came away with more than $4,200, providing them with extra money to pay volunteers and purchase better equipment.
Part of their promise to the donors, other than to create a scintillating short, is to provide the donors with a copy.
Copies have been made and, once they’ve heard back from every festival they’ve applied for, distribution will begin.
Wood and Oravic also plan on having several local showings in Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and maybe even little, old Dietrich Theater.
“We haven’t had a showing in the area, and with so much local talent involved, we’d like to,” Oravic said.
As far as Fenner Productions goes, ‘Pitchfork’ is now the duo’s business card, and they want to showcase their talents to the community.
“The goal was to meet people and get opportunities,” Wood said, calling the film a success by those standards alone.
With offices opening on South Main Street in Wilkes-Barre, it appears they may be primed to take their business to the next level.
“We have a pretty decent amount of equipment, now, and we can pull off just about anything we want to pull off, in terms of capturing something in camera,” Wood said.
The team completed a project filming the popular Brooklyn, N.Y.-based show ‘Puppet Shakespeare Players’ and are currently working on a project for Wilkes University.
Wood and Oravic graduated from Wilkes University, of which Conner is also a graduate, in 2013.
Wood, a Kingston native, majored in broadcast communications, while Oravic studied English with minor focuses in communications journalism and women’s studies.