Almost three years after he first wrote the script, Mathew Miller and his filmmaking partner Brandon Woodard have the finish line in sight for their first feature film, “Subterranea.”
“Subterranea” is a film adaptation a 1997 concept album of the same name from the British progressive rock band I.Q. Miller, the writer and director of the film, said he always thought it would make a great story for a movie, and began working on a script in the summer of 2011. One he had a script finished, Miller reached out to the band, who were not only on board with the idea, but agreed to write and record the score for the film as well.
The pre-production work for the film was also the basis of Miller and Woodard’s MFA thesis project in the Media Arts program at the University of Montana.
The movie tells the story of a man who was raised in captivity, spending his entire life in total darkness without seeing or interacting with another person. After being released, the protagonist learns to deal with the overwhelming nature of experiencing life for the first time. In addition, he discovers that he is at the center of a larger social experiment, and begins to discover more about both his own history, and the people who are pulling the strings.
The filmmakers are currently wrapping up a few last pieces of voiceover recording with some of the cast members in Los Angeles before they head back to Missoula to put their heads down and power through the end of postproduction.
“When we get back, it’s audio work, music work, visual effects, color grading, and then putting the final mix on the video,” said Woodard, the film’s cinematographer.
Despite a sizeable budget for the film, raised through online efforts and private investments, and some Hollywood talent in the cast, almost all of the postproduction and editing work has taken place in Woodard’s basement, which the two filmmakers have converted into their own studio.
“We have quite the setup down there. At one point we had four or five computers, I can’t count how many monitors, our own sound and color studio,” Miller said.
He said they expect to have all the postproduction on the movie wrapped up within a month. Then, their work will turn toward submitting it to film festivals, and working on finding the best means of distribution, including potential theater, home release, and online streaming. The eventual plan is to have “Subterranea” premiere some time in the fall. Woodard and Miller said they are also planning a Missoula screening, as well as possibly showing the film at or near other places where they did some of the filming.
The lead role of the captive is being played by Bug Hall, most well known for playing Alfalfa in the 1994 movie “The Little Rascals.” In addition, “NYPD Blue” actor Nicholas Turturro as well as William Katt (“Carrie”), with local talent Amber Mason, Lily Gladstone, Ann Peacock, David Mills-Low and Howard Kingston rounding out the cast.
The project was able to attract some well-established Hollywood names, Miller said, because of the strength of the underlying story of the film. When they sent out scripts, the positive response they got meant they were able to secure a cast that in some cases was paid less than what they would generally expect to see in an acting job.
“Once you get one interested, others hear about it and are interested in getting involved,” Miller said.
Miller and Woodard shot much of the film around Missoula, with locations including the downtown area, Blue Mountain and several private buildings and houses. In addition, the Media Arts department at UM allowed them to use a small production space in McGill Hall on campus, where they were able to build a series of sets. Both Woodard and Miller said the Media Arts program at UM has been incredibly supportive with help from their fellow classmates as well as advice from professors.
While they said they were not able to get all of the more than 60 locations they had originally scouted to shoot into the film, they did manage to spend time at several spots outside town, including the Daly Mansion in Hamilton and St. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park.
Although he said it would be a relief when the project is finally completed, Woodard said then time spent editing the film has been very fulfilling.
“Every time you make a new cut the film gets closer and closer to that finished project. that idea that’s in your head,” he said.