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Rook Creators Isaac Walsh and Stephen Morgan Interview

15 August 2020 No Comment

RookA failed gold heist leaves two siblings and a few of their friends at the mercy of two backwoods brothers hell-bent on getting back what’s theirs.Ranging from modern western to quirky indie, Rook takes you on a journey of thievery and self discovery within a small Colorado gold mining town.

How long was the writing process?
We (Isaac Walsh and Stephen Morgan) spent about five months on the first version, which was called Black, Red, Gold and was a much darker, slow-burn drama in the Cohen style. Then we switched gears and went in a more cheeky brit-crime comedy modern western style movie in the Guy Ritchie/Shane Black methodology – see question 10. We spent another nine months on that script and didn’t stop writing until we started production on November 5th. This process consisted of us sitting in a small office behind a local coffee shop for over a year. This is also where we did pre-production.

What were some of the struggles early on?

Right off the bat, financing took a bit of time and was an all out race to the finish with only 65% of the budget confirmed weeks leading up to production. A first time writer/director is a hard sell for anyone looking to make an investment. So we went to family and friends for their support, for which they showed much of.

Casting is an important part of the process. Where did you find the cast?

Casting is a process that usually takes a long time but we focused on two main talent agencies and online submissions to get through the first round of casting. We asked to see everyone, but we really wanted some theater actors as well because we knew we’d be doing long takes. Then we met with many in person and narrowed it down. But most of the actors who were cast had the part the moment they walked in the door. The first two to be cast were Zack Rush and Sarah Johanna Jewell, along with Bobby Lee Black(Punisher), Zachary Andrews, Matt. C. Burns, Omid D. Harrison, Heath C. Heine, Jordan Leigh, Ben Hilzer, Tom Borrillo, all locals with the exception of The Walking Dead’s Lew Temple.

The Walking Dead’s Lew Temple plays Bill, how was it working with him?

He was a joy. He plays the shifty, gold trading wild card mountain man, Bill. And he’s hilarious. We were looking for the right guy to play the backwoods american pikey, and we got him.

Did you enjoy shooting in Colorado?

From the incredible locations and locals making us feel at home, It was better than we could have hoped for. Colorado has a slower speed than a lot of the places movies are usually made. That appealed to us when thinking about how to pull off a movie of this size on the budget we had. We needed to be able to cut some corners to stay on schedule, and being able to work directly with the local authorities and city employees really helped us keep the train moving.

How long was production?

Principal photography lasted for eleven very cold days. Then we had one pickup day and two b-roll/aerial days.

We heard the town you shot in was haunted.

We had the privilege to shoot in Southern Teller County, which included both towns of Victor and Cripple Creek. Having the two very different backdrops was important because we wanted the location of the story to be as much as a character as anyone else in the movie. Victor and Cripple Creek are among the more haunted towns in Colorado so that kept us on our toes.

Where was most of the cast from?

Most of the cast came from Colorado, Denver, Colorado Springs. We like using locals as much as possible.

How was shooting on a $100,000 budget, in 11 days, at 10,000 ft… in Winter?

Lean, fast, out of breath, and cold. That’s an oversimplification but true nonetheless. We housed the entire production team and cast in a 120 year old high school retrofitted for soccer camps. It was shoulder to shoulder in bunks which gave the production more of a kind of summer camp feel. I would totally do it again. The altitude was tough because we did a lot of moving around and almost everyone on set wasn’t from that high of elevation so a lot of people got sick. Shooting in winter is a double edged sword because the film looks beautiful, but it was a pain to shoot in. “I think I enjoyed it more than everyone else,” said Stephen Morgan, Director. Each company move took a while so we tried to keep the locations as close together as we could. The budget was tough cause a hundred grand is what most movies spend on tips. So we had to get creative in how we used every dollar.

What was the post-production process?

It lasted about fourteen months from December 2018 through March 2020. Primary editing took place at the Directors home in Colorado Springs, with the Color Grade done by Peder Morgenthaler of Frame Linear in Aurora and Sound Design by Matthew Polis at Sound Space in Boulder. Thankfully we had finished almost everything right before Covid-19 hit.

What genre would you say Rook. most fits into?

Rook.’s technical genre is Comedy, but we like to think of it as a modern western that feels like a British caper. But don’t let that fool you, there is plenty of drama and action as well.

What about Distribution?

We were about to start submitting it to festivals when Covid-19 hit and everything shut down. So instead, we sent it out to every distributor we could find an email address for. We got a few crappy offers and then came Gravitas Ventures, the young, scrappy distributor who is known for giving little movies a chance. As a young scrappy film, we saw an opportunity to be that possible diamond in the rough that could bring a new awareness of what Colorado Film could do!

How can we watch it?

It is now available to rent and buy digitally on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, YouTube, Vimeo, and more. DVDs and Blu-ray’s are available from Amazon.com, Bestbuy.com, and more.


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