“With two sticks and a quarter, we dug ourselves up there.”
The latest film from acclaimed independent director Elza Kephart promises to be one of the most moving pieces on the film festival circuit when it makes its debut. It certainly proved to be the most ambitious project of Kephart’s career thus far, as she has written, directed and produced the project.
Go In The Wilderness is the story of Lilith, a captivating character in Biblical references and one of the strongest female characters ever written into literature.
From the official GITW website:
“The origins of Lilith are, like most myths cloudy and multifaceted. She was originally believed to be a Sumerian divinity credited with being, among other things, the first Goddess of agriculture. When Goddess worship declined and female deities were forced to wed Gods, Lilith was married to Adam, supposedly to explain away the two version of Creation in Genesis. However, this marriage was of short duration; Lilith refused to lie below Adam and was banished to the shores of the Red Sea.
Hebrew Scriptures go on to say that after her flight she was wed to Sammael (the Hebrew Devil) and joined with him to tempt Eve into the secrets of Tantra, the divine sexual union. Soon after, Lilith was turned into the prototypical succubus, a defiant seductress and child-killer whom the ancient Hebrews had to ward off with talismans. The wild and free aspect of feminine sexuality symbolized by Lilith had become distorted into the lascivious, unmarried she-demon. My intent with this project is to explore this little known myth and to offer a new interpretation of one of the first truly defiant women.”- Elza Kephart
The title of the film is based on an African-American spiritual song, ‘Go In The Wilderness’ is about finding out who you are as a person, not simply the story of Lilith.
Just this morning, I had the wonderful chance to speak with Elza about her latest project, what it was like filming way up on the North Coast of Quebec and why she loves the horror community.
MANGLED MATTERS: The backdrop to this film is absolutely breath-taking. How long was the shoot way up on Quebec’s North Coast? Was it one long consecutive shoot or did you break it down?
ELZA KEPHART: It was definitely a consecutive shoot, because it took us twelve hours to get to the furthest point we were at! We shot for five weeks. We shot for a week around Montreal, and then we went up North and shot directly on the North Coast for… three weeks. We drove to the Charlevoix region for about a week of shooting, so five weeks total. I got inspired to shoot up there when writing the script. I wanted to see if it was feasible to shoot up there, so we went up, looked around, saw the island, the region, the rock… and I said we should maximize this shoot as much as we can.
A lot of people don’t know about the area, because most people don’t go that far north. It’s just one road- you have to take the same road going back as you do going up.
MM: Were there any different protocols as far as licenses/permission/etc, to get a film crew up there as opposed to in a studio or in a more populated setting?
EK: Actually, it was much easier to get permission. There aren’t many films that shoot up there, and people are proud of their region so we pretty much shot for free. The island we shot on is owned by Canadian government and is also a natural reserve. We shot for free because it was good publicity. It was almost like the Far West- a lot of the land isn’t owned. The government owns it, but it’s available for any Canadian to use and go on.
MM: Shooting way up there, in the absolute bare elements, were there any real obstacles you were faced with during filming?
EK: Oh yeah, for sure! (laughs) The hardest thing was getting to the sites themselves. It’s hard. They aren’t accesible right off the road. I needed to shoot really far in for most shots, so we’d have to rent 4x4s to carry all the gear on. Loading up gear and people at 3 in the morning… that was really hard. The bugs, there were a lot of bugs… bears running across the road.. running through the fog… but it was a pretty great shoot- it was a young crew eager to participate.
We didn’t have much cash, so going to the island was tough. With two sticks and a quarter, we dug ourselves up there but we went to the wilderness for a reason!
We learned a week after our shoot, we were staying in a small town just off the coast, and a big $8 million shoot came up. They had an airplane to take all the cast and crew and equipment.. they were staying in the same little old hotels we were staying at!
The Canadian government is really opening the North up for mining and such, so there was a mini exploration going on and it was actually quite expensive up there, because of the huge hydro dam, to find a place to stay. Everything was expensive. We didn’t have local volunteers- they were busy having high paying jobs at the super market!
MM: You’ve drawn comparisons to Graveyard Alive (Kephart’s directorial debut in 2003) and GITW, what with both female characters being strong, independent women demonized or ostercized from their natural surroundings and forced to adapt to a completely different landscape, physically and psychologically. You can argue that the story of Lilith is one of the best examples in feminism in literature/mythology. Thoughts on that?
EK: I think that’s definitely what attracts women to this myth, is the strength of Lilith. I first read about her in college. I liked the myth itself- the story, it really spoke to me and who I was. It said “you can do it, even if it doesn’t make the most sense. If it isn’t an easy choice right now, in retrospect, you realize it was the right choice”.
Go In The Wilderness isn’t a feminist message, it’s a feeling of “I can do this. It sounds crazy, but I can do this”. If you don’t like something “just the way it is”, choose for yourself.
Both films (Graveyard Alive and Go In The Wilderness) are about loners who need to rebuild their world.
MM: I love that idea. I read and watch horror and films about loners and it makes me feel good, like “hey, I’m not the only weirdo out there like this!”
EK: I love genre films. Go In The Wilderness isn’t a horror film, but it has a lot of the themes I love in horror. I was the girl who read Anne Rice, loved Halloween and horror movies. After Graveyard Alive, I found a community that was like me.
MM: How long did it take you to develop such a thought provoking script?
EK: It took quite a long time. I was in my late twenties and realized I was unhappy with how my life was going. The story of Lilith popped back in my mind. She’s always there when I feel at the end of my rope.
I wrote the first draft five or six years ago. It was very wordy, a lot of talking. The rules of the world had to get figured out. I had to put it aside, it was just too much.
Then a friend said to me one day a few years back, “Do this one. It’s small and unique. You can re-write it.” Two years ago, I re-wrote it and decided to do it.
MM: You put together one of the most decorated crews I’ve ever seen for an independent project. What did it mean to have so many exceptionally talented professionals working alongside you to make this film become a reality?
EK: It brought the film to an entirely different level. The DP (Glauco Bermudez) was great, he’s got a great eye and he believed in the story. The art director (Mathieu Giguere) and costume designer (Henry Fong) were introduced to me on a big Hollywood film shoot. We became friends and they wanted to help with this project. The editor (Mirenda Ouellet) hadn’t done a feature yet and was raring to go. She was amazing to work with. The sound designer (Martin Pinsonnault) took everything to a new level.
If you fail on a fantasy film, people aren’t going to get into the world you are trying to take them to. You need to create an entire world that people will get into. It’s a unique project. It works in a very simple, short, concise way.
I’d like to sincerely thank Elza for her time and kindness in doing this interview. Not only is she an incredibly talented filmmaker, she also is one of the warmest people I’ve ever had the chance to speak with.
The crowd-funding campaign for Go In The Wilderness begins on October 16th. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled here at Cup Of Stars for all the latest news and updates on this fantastic project!