Richard Harrah's directorial debut THE CANYON recently saw a limited theatrical release and a DVD release (get it here). The flick stars sexy Yvonne Strahovski, Will Patton and Eion Baileyis and it's about a a honeymooning couple who celebrate their union by getting lost and fighting for their lives in the Grand Canyon. Richard recently parachuted down to the AITH headquarters and we talked some Canyon shop. Here we go!
What was it about Steve Allrich’s screenplay that had you think “I have to
I think its simplicity. Steve and I would always say it's not the story of Nick and Lori, it's the story of Nick and Lori right now. Two young people about to start their lives together are caught in the unforgiving clenches of Mother nature and are grappling with how to survive, not the day to day drama forged by the ego but spontaneous atavistic survival forged deep in the id. When your death appears imminent things get simple real fast. I think Steve saw the Humanity in the Canyon and that is what attracted me.
This was your first feature. Why a thriller as opposed to say a comedy or a drama?
It was the opportunity that winked at me first, so I winked back. It was a great experience working with Mark my producer and Steve, a real fraternity out there in the deserts. It really was great fun.
I haven’t seen the film but am assuming that it paints the
Grand Canyon in a somewhat negative light; did you have to get some kind of
permission from the folks who own the property that is the Grand Canyon to do
Heavens no! The Park Service goes to great pains to warn people of the hazards of the Grand Canyon. People die every season there because they miss judge the canyon or their own abilities. If anything I think my movie is a cautionary tale.
How arduous was the prep for this picture? What was the most challenging aspect?
Getting it cast was challenging. I suppose everyone is a little nervous to work with a first timer. Otherwise it was a smooth production with some very talented professionals above and below the line.
Did you shoot at the actual Grand Canyon? Either way, did the location influence the shoot on any level?
Parts were shot there but for practical reason we shot most of the movie in Moab, Utah. A great town with the most amazing scenery and great folks. Thank you Moab! The Canyon was always to be a major cast member and getting the look and feel, the isolation was going to be crucial. In the beginning Mark talked about a sound stage, I wouldn't know what to do with that. For me I was always fighting for the wide shot. My DP would say the drama is in their faces, or tight shots. I was always looking for the vast angle to show their isolation and give perspective.
The great Will Patton aside, your cast is comprised of mostly
unknowns. Was that an intentional choice or just how the cookie crumbled?
As I mentioned above it's hard to convince talent to take a chance on a unknown. Now that said I do believe that having a more recognizable face may have worked against us. The added baggage of an actor we know would make it harder to suspend disbelief or to imbue your own persona into the drama. Perhaps it makes it easier to escape for a few moments not having Tom Cruise. Yeah right who am I kidding I would have loved Tom Cruise.
What would be the scene that you are most proud of within the film?
I do like the ending. We fought for it because it isn't traditionally upbeat. I think it makes you think and ultimately you will find it life affirming.
In your opinion, is it a good time to be an indie filmmaker at the moment?
It feels so uncertain in the world right now that the little indy guy is the least of our worries. I hope we can keep making films as robustly as we have in the past but I think those heady days are long gone. It's going to be survival of the most committed I think.
The Canyon Part 2? A possibility? Would you be interested in
The Canyon part Deux I don't see it but lets talk.
What’s next up for you? Any other projects in the pipeline?
There are a few that I really excited to get going. Everyone I'm told is it's own Everest so I'm committed to staying in shape for that next mountain to come my way.
What do you hope audiences will think and feel when they come out of a The Canyon screening?
I think The Canyon is one of those films that leaves a deep indelible mark on the psyche, it says life is precious and oh so fragile, and that we should love each other while we can.