|Spirit of the Frontier|
American Old West
- "Legends don't die... they wait."
Spirit of the Frontier is a film by Wingless Films set in the American Old West. The story follows mercenary Edmund Cash (Tom Menary) as he tracks a wanted man across the frontier during the last years of the Wild West, and his encounters with a native tracker (Annie Knight) and a mysterious figure (Allister Gall) in the heart of a Sacramento forest.
A man falls down an incline and lands hard, beaten and ragged.
1882: The American West. The mercenary Edmund Cash is tracking a wanted man across the frontier to the coast in Sacramento. He stops to take a drink, and discards the empty bottle before walking on. Arriving at a reservoir, Cash encounters a native, Yanaba, sitting at a burned-out camp-fire. He takes a water bottle from her, and drinks. She tells him the water is "for bad spirits", prompting him to depart. Yanaba follows, questioning him about his journey, until Cash confesses he is tracking down a man, in order to kill him.
After failing to shake the tracker from his tail, Cash makes camp for the night, watched by Yanaba. She continues to talk to him, though he seems interested only in drinking from the bottle. After she states that there are "worse than spirits" out on the plains, Cash answers with his belief that there is nothing extraordinary in the world any more. He hints at a former nomadic lifestyle, but claims that he only sees a small world, and it is getting smaller.
Cash tracks his prey through a forest, intending to catch him before he boards a ship leaving the States. He picks up the trail, and runs on through the plains, Yanaba following as ever. They arrive at a clearing, overlooking another forest, though before Cash can make for it, the native steps in his path. She declares that the land is sacred, and she is fully intending to protect it from Cash. The mercenary argues, stating it is nothing but dirt, though neither budges. Cash knocks the woman down and chokes her, cracking her neck and leaving her body on the plain. He takes another drink from her bottle and departs.
Entering the forest, Cash falls into a weakened state, stumbling through the trees, until he spots a body hidden in the undergrowth close to a grove. Inspecting it, Cash realizes it is the corpse of the man he has been chasing. Lost, Cash seems ready to give up, when his senses alert him. He turns around to find himself confronted by a mysterious figure, dressed in the clothes of a gentleman gunslinger. The encounter turns into a confrontation, with Cash accusing the stranger of killing his prey. The other identifies himself only as "a dead man, killed by a coward", and seems to know of Cash; in particular, he believes Cash may have been affected by Yanaba, suggesting that perhaps the entire confrontation is a figment of the mercenary's imagination. Nevertheless, the two men struggle, with Cash coming off badly; knocked to the ground, he has his knee broken by an unknown force, and is thrown backwards into a tree, hard enough to spit blood. Scared, Cash flees the scene.
He arrives at a bluff overlooking a vast expanse, and slides down into a trench, weary. He holds up Yanaba's bottle, emptying it and beginning to speak to it, looking for a direction. He lapses into introspection, finally believing in something "more than dirt", and wondering if he will find a new frontier. Cash slips into unconsciousness, the empty bottle falling from his hand.
- Jim Elton
- Creator and co-director
- Camera operator and photographer
- Sound recorder
- Tom Menary
- Principal actor
- Music composer
- Annie Knight
- Assistant sound recorder
- Mike Kinsey
- "There's nothing. Used to be frontiers."
- ―Edmund Cash
Pre-production on Spirit of the Frontier began in early April 2011, though the concept of a western dated to March 2011, with ideas of a revenge story that would follow a gunslinger's quest to track down a victim across the American West. A rough draft of the script was completed on the 4th of the month. A revised draft was completed on 25th April, and was used as the final shooting script for the remainder of the production.
The film went through several titles, initially referred to simply as "The Western", before briefly adopting the titles "Frontier" and "Spurless"—the latter a riff on "Wingless Films" and the preceding release, Wingless.
The original script cast the Tracker—referred to as "Native"—in a more sympathetic light, with no suggestion that she had offered Cash a poisoned water bottle. Cash's back story was expanded between drafts, incorporating dialogue referring to his past as a traveller, as well as lines concerning the destination of his target. Additionally, the confrontation with the Spirit was expanded to incorporate a brief fight scene.
The first location scout was carried out on 20th April, 2011, around the Burrator Reservoir in Dartmoor. Locations such as the site of the confrontation and the reservoir itself were finalized, and the fight between Cash and the spirit was blocked out and practiced. A second location scout was conducted on 2nd May, 2011, with all locations finalized, and Cash's opening fall down the hillside practiced.
Teaser posters for the film were created on 26th April, 2011, with several variations, and included the tagline: "Legends Don't Die".
The first day of filming was carried out on 9th May, 2011 in locations around Dartmoor. The opening scene, in which Cash walks the plains, was completed. Footage from the shoot was featured in the second installment of Tom's Blog.
The following day saw the addition of Annie Knight to the cast, in the role of the Tracker. Her meeting with Cash was filmed, and several stills from the film were released. An additional day's shooting took place on 19th May, 2011, part of which was documented by Devon photographer Mike Kinsey. His photos were later released on facebook.
The final day's shooting took place on 25th May, 2011. The confrontation between Cash and the mysterious figure played by Allister Gall was filmed, as well as the final scenes. A teaser trailer was released on the same day, featuring shots from early portions of the film, and "Welcome to the Frontier (The Trailer Music)". The music cue was uploaded along with two other "preview" tracks ahead of the final score.
- Main article: Spirit of the Frontier (soundtrack)
The original score was composed by Tom Menary. A preview track, "Ambience - The Old West", was released as a bonus track on the compilation album Short Fussing. This track introduces a version of the film's main theme, "The Wanderer". "Yanaba's Theme" is heard during the lake meeting.
A cover of Townes Van Zandt's "Waitin' Around to Die", by Håkon L. Tandberg, was initially intended to play over the final scene and end credits, though it was left unused due to copyright concerns. The final track was named in honour of the song.
Spirit of the Frontier was released on 30th May, 2011.
Videos and blogsEdit
- Stills album at Wingless Films on facebook
- Behind-the-scenes photo album at Wingless Films on facebook
- "Mike Kinsey's On Set Spirit of the Frontier at Wingless Films on facebook