Here at Modern Horrors, we pride ourselves on finding those unique gems hidden in a sea of talent. One of those came to us late last year in the form of a “podplay” called Unbeaten Path. It was a fun, well put together project, but creator John Holowach wasn’t ready to stop there. The end game for John has always been a full length feature. That hasn’t come to fruition just yet, but he is one step closer with a new short set in the Unbeaten Path universe.
The idea of a yeti horror film is something that John has been interested in for quite some time. However, he isn’t the first film maker to take on the mythical beast. He would need something that would set his apart. Luckily inspiration would strike in the summer of 2013. John recalls, “ I didn’t know how to make it really unique until I happened to be watching indie horror flick Dead Birds. A horror film set in the old west. I didn’t really connect with the movie as a whole, but the baseline idea of combining horror with that time period really engaged my thinking. About a year later, the feature script had been completed, polished, and ready for the next phase“.
Despite having a ready script, John would have to wait on realizing his dream. Ideas are a dime a dozen, but financing is sparse. In order to drum up interest, John set to work creating a “podplay”; a modernization of the old time radio dramas. He was fueled by memories of listening to City of Dreams by J. Michael Straczynski on Syfy’s website in the late 90’s. “The way they painted a picture with sound was extraordinary, and I so rarely heard things like that before or since.” Abandoning the usual method of creating a concept trailer, John dove straight into turning his feature length script into an audio drama. The idea was that a podplay would allow John to tell a full story in a way that a concept trailer wouldn’t allow. “I also wanted a complete work in and of itself. Something people could listen to without needing context.”
Surprisingly, John says that creating the podplay and the short film were relatively simple affairs. The biggest hurdle, as is usually the case for indie film makers, is the funding. But where there is a will, there is a way. “I’ve been putting my own savings into them, as well as trading, begging, and convincing others to come along without needing much compensation. It’s been invigorating to have so many people believe in a project that they’d be in an old church recording their characters for six hours into the night. Or freezing their limbs off up in Big Bear until 4 AM trying to get all our shots. Most of the hurdles for those haven’t been creative, but logistical.”
John realizes that a feature film requires more than a “can-do” attitude. “All of this work has been in service of showing how a theatrical film could be done competently, relatively inexpensively, and grab the attention of the world.” And he is probably right. Both podplay and short were completed for less the $5,000 combined. In the real world, that goes a long way, but that’s barely going to get the caterer out of the house in Hollywood. Luckily, John has been able to recoup some cost by selling and streaming the podplay on platforms such as Spotify, iTunes, and Amazon, while the short is taking advantage of YouTube’s monetization. “Its primary purpose is not profitability, but to display the abilities of the team involved and how it would be easy to turn that talent to a grander scale.”
We’ve seen a surge in genre-related Western films. The fantastic Bone Tomahawk, Ti West’s new project In the Valley of Violence, and you could even throw in Tarantino’s Hateful 8. Still, John acknowledges that these are the exception to the rule. “It would be a simple thing to have a film about yetis and cowboys be stupid, poorly done, or cheaply constructed. But to take it completely seriously, to make sure every character and moment works together, means something. That’s what these two projects are. They are a calling card.”
John’s goal is the have the full length feature of Unbeaten Path in production by early to mid 2017, with a release date the following year. “It’s lofty, it’s ambitious, but that’s the only way I know how to work.”
We’ll have to wait and see if the full envisioning of John’s dream is around the corner, but in the meantime check out his short film set in the same universe!