‘Wichita,’ a horror film shot in Snowmass Village, gets digital and DVD release | AspenTimes.com

‘Wichita,’ a horror film shot in Snowmass Village, gets digital and DVD release

The new horror film "Wichita" was filmed in Snowmass Village.

When the writer-director Kevin Smith spoke at the Wheeler Opera House last winter, he encouraged any aspiring filmmaker in the crowd to shoot a movie here in the Aspen area and take advantage of the idyllic setting.

"Anywhere you point the camera is free production value," he told the crowd.

Filmmaker Matthew Ward had a similar D.I.Y. intuition when he shot his horror film "Wichita" at his parents' Snowmass Village home over 12 days in October 2014.

Three years since that adventure in filmmaking, Ward's directorial debut has been picked up for distribution and is now available on DVD and digital platforms like iTunes, Amazon and Google Play.

The low-budget independent horror film, co-directed by Justyn Ah Chong, is about a group of TV writers who make their way to a mountain home on a group writing retreat, aiming to revamp the children's television show they work on. Trevor Peterson stars as Jeb, a disturbed writer from Wichita who plants cameras around the home to spy on his coworkers and soon starts knocking them off while live-streaming the murders.

"It's about why we demand violent content and the spectacle of a violent event," said Ward, now 29. "I see murder as a function of mass media."

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It was filmed almost entirely on private property at his parents' house on Faraway Road in Snowmass Village. Ward and his small, inventive crew took full advantage of the unpredictable fall weather — over the course of two weeks they shot in snow, in rain, amid green-leaved aspen trees and golden-yellow ones.

The cast and crew all stayed in the house where they were shooting for the movie, which made for an interesting creative experience.

"We were all living out of the house and using up these strange spaces and switching our set into a living space — moving our socks and our coats out of camera shots," he recalled.

Ward hosted a private screening of "Wichita" for friends and local media in Aspen in 2015, showing an early version — then titled "Manifesto" — that he now describes as "an early, long, sub-par sound cut." After that, Ward chopped 16 minutes off the running time — cutting mostly exposition to get to the action more quickly — and raised funds to redo the sound design. The final version of the film premiered at last year's Santa Fe Film Festival at the renowned Jean Cocteau Cinema (owned by "Game of Thrones" author and Santa Fe icon George R.R. Martin, who attended the "Wichita" premiere).

It played at a handful of other small festivals before Ward and his producers sold it to independent distributor Candy Factory Films. The New York-based company, incidentally, also distributed 2013's "Chapman," which also was shot in the Roaring Fork Valley.

"Wichita" has gotten largely positive feedback from hard-core horror fans online and in what Ward calls the "cabin-in-the-woods horror niche market."

"People are having fun with it," he said.

Ward is working on several new film projects including one about a school shooter and another set in marijuana grow house.

As "Wichita" finds its audience, Ward is hopeful that it will inspire other filmmakers with limited funding to take a leap of faith and tell stories in settings they can access.

"I hope it will inspire other filmmakers to say 'Screw it' and make a movie in their mother's garage," he said.

atravers@aspentimes.com

IF YOU WATCH…

‘Wichita’ is available for rent and purchase on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and on DVD at candyfactoryfilms.com.