Sundance accepts local’s film | AspenTimes.com

Sundance accepts local’s film

Stewart Oksenhorn

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Last winter Dean Stapleton and a few of his acting buddies spent a few weeks working in the mountains surrounding Aspen, Stapleton’s hometown. Now Stapleton and company are riding the fruits of their labor in Aspen to another ski town, Park City, Utah.

“Subject Two,” the film starring Stapleton that was shot in and around the Barnard Hut, a few miles off the back side of Aspen Mountain, has been accepted to the Sundance Film Festival. The film, which Stapleton also co-produced, will show in January at the festival, which runs Jan. 19-29. The screening will be part of the festival’s Park City at Midnight series.

Two additional Aspen products are involved with the film. Scott Edel, son of former Aspen Mayor Herman Edel, is the business lawyer for the project. Eric Godal is creating the musical score for “Subject Two.”

Stapleton, a fifth-generation Aspenite whose great-great-grandfather came to Aspen over Taylor Pass in 1880, was a ski racer in his years at Aspen High School, and he went on to a brief speed-skiing career. The Barnard Hut, part of the Braun Hut System, served as the sole location for the 16-day shoot for the film.

Yet “Subject Two” has little to do with skiing. Written, directed and edited by Philip Chidel, whom Stapleton met in a Los Angeles acting class a decade ago, “Subject Two” is a psychological thriller about a doctor who creates a resurrection serum. Stapleton plays Dr. Vick, who recruits a young medical student (Christian Oliver) who arrives at the remote mountain hut to participate in the experiment. Dr. Vick kills him over and over, in the name of science.

“It’s not about the science, though,” said Stapleton, whose parents, Dave and Sigrid, and brother, also Dave, still live in the Aspen area. “It’s about the human condition and the relationship between the two. And about what being reborn means.”

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Robert Redford created the Sundance Festival as a vehicle to spotlight independent films. But in recent years, Sundance has received some criticism for becoming a movie marketplace and losing its independent atmosphere in the process.

But Stapleton, who lives in the Sunnyside neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City, says “Subject Two” reflects “the true meaning of independent filmmaking.” He hesitated to disclose for publication what the film cost, but certainly people have had week-long vacations in Park City for less. Financing meant the three principals chipping in what they had and then breaking out the credit cards. The cast and crew, a total of nine people, not only used the Barnard Hut as a location but also lived in the hut for 16 total days. To accommodate users who had reserved the hut, the crew had to vacate periodically, making three round trips by snowmobile. “Subject Two” was shot by candlelight and natural light, but still Stapleton marvels at the look of the film.

As thrilled as he was to receive word on Monday that Sundance had accepted “Subject Two” – one of 110 feature films out of more than 3,100 submissions – he seemed just as touched by the community aspect of making the film.

“The Aspen Skiing Co., the Alfred Braun Hut System, the Forest Service – to have them really embrace the local kid coming back to make a movie, was phenomenal,” said Stapleton, who caught the film-and-theater bug while serving as a production assistant on a Cheerios commercial shot at the Maroon Bells. “That’s been so delicious, especially given how difficult this business can be. To have all these Aspen elements part of the film, and to have all that Aspen support makes it special. It means a lot.”

Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com

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