Over the last year, thanks to my husband, I’ve grown more fond of Western films, especially ones that incorporate horror elements into the story. That’s why I’m pretty excited about the upcoming Western Thriller, Black Wood. The film is directed and written by Chris Canfield and produced by Eric Corneliuson and Ryan M Hall. It stars Bates Wilder, Tanajsia Slaughter, Stelio Savante, David Fralick and Glenn Morshower. The cast is rounded out by Andrew Stecker, George Thomas Mansel, and Casey Birdinground. The film is currently filming throughout South Dakota. I recently had the privilege of talking with Chris and Eric about Black Wood, where we discussed the inspiration behind the story, the casting process, and more.
After her family was murdered, Dowanhowee, a Sioux Indian woman, travels alone into the ever expanding West. She stumbles upon a decrepit town and crosses paths with a notorious outlaw group known as the Dutch Wilder Gang. She discovers one of the men riding a horse belonging to a member of her slain family. Dowanhowee takes revenge on the horse thief and evades the group by racing into an uncharted area known as the Black Wood Forest.
Once inside this mysterious land, the Dutch Wilder Gang capture Dowanhowee and after a cruel interrogation the men find value in her, and force her to help them with their primary mission; to find a hidden vein of gold. Not long into their journey, they soon discover they must work together and fight for their lives as they have unknowingly awaken an ancient ravenous creature known as The Wendigo.
PopHorror: What inspired you to get involved in the film industry?
Chris Canfield: I guess I could say that I was attracted to the movie industry at a young age. I grew up as an only child in a ranch family and being 45 minutes away from the nearest person your age gets a little boring, so watching movies was kind of the only escape I had. My parents had this little wooden cupboard below our TV that was stocked with VHS tapes and I watched every single one of them. They ranged from action movies to comedies, and to westerns. The only problem was that my parents never bought new movies, so after watching Crocodile Dundee for the 14th time, I was like I want to see different movies; newer movies. I grew up in a household where if I wanted something then I had to buy it myself. Since we lived so far in the country we never went to the theater, but we did go to Walmart about once a month.
The good news for me was that we had chickens, so I actually started selling eggs, and made egg money. I sold every single egg that our chicken would pop out to family and neighbors in the area, it wasn’t much money but as a kid it was plenty. Then when it was time for our monthly Walmart excursion I gathered up all the change and dollar bills I had and buy a movie or two, it depended on how many eggs I sold. This was a pretty exciting moment for little Chris Canfield.
As I got older my obsession with movies grew. In high school, I acted in our theater class and after four years I actually received a scholarship for theater at South Dakota State University, which was great! I enjoy acting but I knew then that I wanted to know more about the other side of the camera. I wanted to know more about how to make a movie, so, believe it or not, I turned down the scholarship. After high school, I went to Colorado Film School to learn how to make movies and from there I grew and found a path that eventually led me to making my first feature movie.
Eric Corneliuson: When I was about 10 years old my father brought a video camera home. I made my own movies until the camera finally died. I have wanted to work in film ever since and am finally old enough to say no to the sensible things my parents wanted me to do, I am.
PopHorror: What is your favorite film of all time?
Chris Canfield: The movie that made me love movies was Escape from New York. Since then I have been a huge John Carpenter fan.
Eric Corneliuson: Raiders of the Lost Ark. I can watch it over and over and I am still entertained and filled with the same boyish lust for adventure I had as a child.
PopHorror: What made you choose South Dakota as a location for the film?
Eric Corneliuson: There were two main reasons that we chose South Dakota. First, the natural beauty was incredible and the story was tied to the land, forests, valleys, rivers, rocks, and plains. Stunning and treacherous. Second, there was an amazing amount of support from the local communities. This film could not have been made without the kindness and help that we were given. It was an amazing experience.
Chris Canfield: I grew up in South Dakota and it is a beautiful place. It is much more than just the state with Mount Rushmore, it is enriched with history, wonderful people, and astonishing scenery. So when I wrote Black Wood I knew we had to film in South Dakota. I actually wrote some scenes based on the locations and landmarks that I knew were around me.
PopHorror: What are the greatest challenges in filming a period piece?
Chris Canfield: Some of the challenges of doing a period piece, like all period pieces, is making sure you get it right. Black Wood takes place around the 1870s and we wanted to be as authentic as possible. Not only did we have to make sure the wardrobe was appropriate, but the weapons and even the saddles on the horses had to be period correct. The hardest part is finding people that have all the stuff you need, but we found them and they were amazing!
Eric Corneliuson: Everything. It requires lots of research. Finding locations can be tough. Finding wardrobe is tough. Finding backups for wardrobe, or anything else, is tough. Often it requires outdoor work which is weather dependent. Weather can be tough. We dealt with warm, cold, sunny, cloudy, rainy, snowy, dry, and muddy weather on this one. It’s an adventure.
PopHorror: How did the casting process come about?
Chris Canfield: When we first started casting this project we put a blanket casting call out to different casting sites, agencies, Craigslists, and colleges. We got a ton of inquiries back, which was great, but it takes some time to go through everyone and decide who is going to be best for the part. In the end, the cast we got was phenomenal, I am so happy and humbled to have such a good group of talented and hardworking people acting in this. This may be a western/horror movie but the characters are what you fall in love with and you will enjoy following them on their journey, which is a crazy one!
Eric Corneliuson: This is an ensemble film. It was vitally important that we found actors that were able to bring the honesty and texture of the characters to life. Additionally, we knew that the majority of the film would be outdoors and in remote areas. The shoot was going to be physically tough due to the weather and remote nature of the locations. It was very important to us that we cast actors that not only could handle that challenge but were also excited about it. The actors behind the scenes personalities created a family on set and made the tough days a lot easier. I couldn’t have hoped for a better experience.
PopHorror: What inspired the story for Black Wood?
Chris Canfield: Funny enough it all started as an image in my head. I had an image of an old weathered outhouse in the middle of the woods. The front of it had been scorched and there were claw marks from some sort of animal all over it. I wanted to know what that story was and why that outhouse was there. From that image, Black Wood was born.