Indie Film: ‘The Hunting Trail’ Shows How Bad Things Can Get in the Woods

Blake Wright stars in “The Hunting Trail.” Photo courtesy of Henry Riley Productions

“I don’t see a lot of hunter movies that have that sense of realism,” says Blake Wright.

He should know. An avid bowhunter from a family of avid bowhunters, Wright stars in the new short film “The Hunting Trail.” The grueling and grueling story of a young hunter’s very bad day in the Maine woods came from an idea Wright had in 2016, when he first started acting. Teamed with his frequent film partner Henry Riley (who wrote, directed and edited the film), Wright is all alone onscreen for the entire 20-minute run.

It sounds like an actor’s dream, and, for Wright, it was — most of the time. “I don’t know if a whole crew would even want to be there,” laughed Wright, recalling the 14-hour shooting days in the rain, cold and mud of October’s filming of “The Hunting Trail” in Nobleboro Woods. And, indeed, the shoot included only Wright, Riley and a production assistant, a sufficiently sparse crew for what is a character’s lonely and painful journey following an incident that Wright says doesn’t is all too common.

“The main plot point of the movie happens all the time,” said Wright, experienced in the wild, “80 percent of bowhunter injuries happen about like this.” Wright is suspicious about the accident hitting his unnamed character, so I will too. I’ll just say that it sounds incredibly painful and potentially deadly, especially since the protagonist has decided to go off alone into the deep woods of Maine.

“That’s the driving force,” said Wright, who first met film partner Riley at Southern Maine Community College. “Henry and I are very attached to the psychological in our films. This character carries a lot of guilt and shame, so he sort of exiled himself on this hunting trip. He escapes something. As for the calamity that takes “The Hunting Trip” from character study to survival story, Wright says only, “A distracted mind is the cause of many accidents.”

Citing Robert Redford’s 2013 sea survival drama “All Is Lost” as a major inspiration for “The Hunting Trail,” Wright says the theme of “man versus nature” has always appealed to him. “It’s also metaphorical for a character’s soul, having to come to terms with what happened, emotionally and physically.” And while Wright himself never found himself in his character’s predicament, there’s no shortage of concrete examples to draw on.

“My grandfather has been bowhunting since he was 13,” Wright said, noting that an annual family hunting trip coincides with the filming of the film. “When he was 60, something similar happened to him.” For Wright, the acting challenge was to put himself in his character’s extreme situation, something that as a performer he took on with total commitment. “How do you play that, in those elements when it’s clear you’ve never done it before?” thought Wright. “How do you put yourself in this pain? You have to go all-in. »

Having seen “The Hunting Trail”, I can attest that Wright does just that. Riley’s camera captures the stark beauty of the Maine wilderness and the specificity of the character’s routine as he embarks on his solo trek, while Wright is magnetic as a taciturn man whose charged silence n It’s only broken when the nature he explores backfires with one, seemingly insignificant misstep. “The trip the week before filming with my dad, grandpa and uncles worked perfectly for the movie,” Wright said. “Preparing for the film was very physical, it’s about getting into the mindset to be the best hunter, as ethical as possible.”

With Riley and Wright’s previous collaboration, the Lewiston-directed short “Nighthawks” (featured in this column last year) having circled the film festival to gratifying accolades, Wright says “The Hunting Trip” is the team’s latest effort to go out into the world in search of viewers. (The striking movie trailer has over 59,000 views on YouTube.)

“We’ve been accepted to five festivals so far, and we expect a lot more,” said Wright, who lives in Bangor. “We really hope to participate in the Maine International Film Festival and the Maine Outdoor Film Festival as well.” After that, Wright and Riley plan to hold public screenings of the film statewide.

As for his family of bow hunters? “My grandfather is almost 80 now,” Wright said happily, “and when I showed it to him, he was grinning from ear to ear.” Although, says Wright, the veteran hunter chided, “That’s bad publicity for the gear you’re using.”

You can read more about “The Hunting Trip”, alongside Henry Riley’s other film work on his website, henryrileyproductions.com. For more on Blake Wright, check out his Instagram page, blakewrightpresents.

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his wife and cat.


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