OCC 1215 Jeff

Scorched Ladders

This month’s post was intended to analyze the movie “12” (2007) from the Russian Federation’s Nikita Mikhalkov. We will push that analysis forward another month so we can dedicate this month to our newest in-house project.

Written, directed and produced for Open Channel Content, our trailer for an episodic series entitled “Scorched Ladders” has been submitted as an entry into the Santa Fe Film Festival Pilot Project Shoot Santa Fe competition. The winner will receive funds and production assistance worth several thousand dollars.

After its premiere at the Santa Fe Film Festival, “Scorched Ladders” will be posted above for public viewing. The work was written and directed by Stryder Simms, produced by Phoenix Simms and shot by Bill Mitchell on the Sony A7SII. Dave Aubrey edited and finished the picture with sound by James Becker and.music by Moons. The actors are Paloma Bryant, Raptor English, Jeff English and Esme Rodriguez Vandraager. Special Costumes were created by Tatyana de Pavloff.

Our new trailer will be entered into  the competition at the same film festival where Godfrey Reggio’s “Koyaniskatsii” made its world premiere back in 1982, the very festival in which the great Peter Bagdonovic and his life’s works will be celebrated this very season.

Our town, Santa Fe, where we’ll make our pilot, is where Oscar Best Picture-winner “No Country For Old Men” had its production offices headquartered the year I got into film school and not far from the place in which Billy Wilder’s “Ace in the Hole” was shot during New Mexico’s first golden age of motion pictures.

Santa Fe’s affinity with filmmakers goes back to the birth of the medium. Some of the first motion pictures ever recorded were made at nearby Isleta Pueblo by Thomas Edison himself, so being included in this festival program this year,is an honor.

Another winner from these parts that shines light on the fascinating culture of Northern New Mexico, Robert Redford’s “Milagro Beanfield War” (1988), from the book by Taos author John Nichols, adds additional distinction to our state’s cinematic legacy. The magic realism in “Beanfield” is more keyed to the type of storytelling that the coming chapters of “Scorched Ladders” hold in store. Carl Franklin’s “Bless Me Ultima” (2013), from the book by Rudolpho Anaya, is a bit more edgy with its magic; ours lies somewhere in between.

Rather than ghosts and witches, the spirits inhabiting shrubs and stones are major agents of change in our new episodic series. Santa Fe is not so much a tourist town, in “Scorched Ladders”, as the place where ancient Mayan and Toltec sorcerers gathered to train for spiritual warfare and devised the riddle of X8H, the powerful symbol that recurs throughout our series.

Santa Fe is not so much an art colony as a plateau with foothills where magical beings have danced on feast days for centuries. This City Different is less a capitol city than an ancient citadel on a trade route first built for trading turquoise, pottery, pumpkins and pinion nuts.

All of this is set off in high relief by the presence of nearby Los Alamos labs, birthplace of the bomb, but also a place where the most brilliant minds on the planet join together at the most sophisticated, well-funded center for technological advancement in the history of humankind.

With the help of nature, the adolescent son of a nuclear physicist and the adopted daughter of a crippled psychic merge their imaginations to become the brainchild of a new renaissance. Two nature spirits reveal themselves as guardians of their parents, but the children are the first to make contact.

In “Scorched Ladders,” Santa Fe becomes the source of the antidote for a tired planet. Nature manifests herself in fantastic figures, formed from the native plants and sprung to action for the purpose of awakening neglected kids and charging them with their sacred vocation as restorers of balance between ecology and technology.

The two guardians in the story, Valorio and Pith, put Martin and Peony through a series of initiations, to aim their wills and attentions toward engaging their highest potential. They are schooled to lead by example to effect positive transformation in their parents and all the negligent parents in the world.

As they become more adept, Valorio and Pith reveal to the young apprentices how to craft larger-than-life, fantastical creatures like themselves from local vegetation. Then, upon playing an enchanted instrument and chanting an ancient incantation, more and more nature guardians come to life. They’re programmed to prepare the children of the world to lead the quantum leap into a new dimension.

A mid-point climax culminates in the burning of the figure of Valorio, with an ambiguous twist. He predicts that they are a line of ancient pioneers who will meet again in the parallel reality that comes next. He leaves behind a ladder that no one can figure out how to use, a key to why the symbol X8H keeps recurring mysteriously.

The third major beat of the pilot, the children take on a new friend, Devlin, a child of militant Christians. Peony likes him, Martin’s not sure. Devlin sets up a wager where they pit one group of nature guardians against another in a mock war. Peony resists. Devlin persists. Martin convinces her it’s just a game, and the two sides clash head-on, resulting in a fire in which all the nature guardians are rendered to ash.

Just then, the outside world comes pressing in. A strange Plutonian groan accompanies a bright streak in the sky and then a crash with much flashing and heat. Maybe it wasn’t just a game. Thick, oozing dust settles over everything.

Turns out that an unnamed cataclysm has occurred. Martin’s father shows up and wants to take Martin with him to safe haven. They must leave Peony, Priscilla and Devlin to fend for themselves amid the drifts of eerie, creeping dust. Martin refuses and runs away. Martin’s father is forced to flee for safe refuge without his son.

Martin and Peony take to the wilderness, using the ladder left behind by Valorio to rig Priscilla’s wheelchair with supports that allow them to bring her along over rough terrain. They struggle off into the unknown with their trusted nature guardians nowhere to be found.

End of episode one.


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