Tanya Manus Fast City Diary
A ravenous ancient creature lurks in the forest, standing between a band of outlaws, a Native American woman, and a fortune in gold. “BlackWood,” a horror western filmed entirely in the Black Hills, opens July 22 at the Elks Theater in Rapid City.
“BlackWood” was written, directed and co-produced by former Hill City resident Chris Canfield. “BlackWood” is his first film. The Elks Theater is one of 13 locations nationwide where the film premieres. To celebrate the premiere of “BlackWood,” Canfield, select cast and producers of the film will be in Rapid City for an after-party following the film’s July 22 screening.
Residents of the Black Hills will recognize familiar places and faces in this terrifying story about outlaws and a Native American woman forced to fight for survival. “BlackWood” was filmed in the Custer, Keystone and Edgemont areas, including Four Mile Old West Town, Black Hills Caverns and the Rock Maze, Canfield said.
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“Having grown up on a ranch for most of my childhood, doing things like riding horses and caring for the land, I’ve always had a calling to tell stories based on that setting. When I came up with the idea for ‘BlackWood,’ I wanted to tell a story that was set in the Black Hills of South Dakota,” Canfield said.
“BlackWood” is inspired by Canfield’s love for the Black Hills. After spending the first 13 years of his life as a ranch kid in Sundance, Wyo., Canfield’s family moved to Hill City. He graduated from Hill City High School in 2007.
“My parents had a horse camp and trail riding (when I was growing up). Living here and being immersed in the local culture, as far as making movies, I really wanted to do something that I could do here at home and do something to engage people in the local community,” Canfield said. .
“For half of my childhood, I was immersed in the Lakota culture of South Dakota, which in turn became one of the biggest inspirations for doing the project. Personally, I think there is no there aren’t enough stories, let alone movies, that portray Indigenous people in a light that isn’t typical of the ‘Hollywood’ standard,” he said. “‘BlackWood’ is set in the second half of the 1800s, which makes it rich in native traditions and culture and fits perfectly into the stories that appeal to me.”
Local knowledge and community support were crucial in creating “BlackWood,” Canfield said.
“I had access to horse trainers, vintage wardrobes, beautiful scenery, culture and people in the community. It all inspired me to make ‘BlackWood’ what it is now,” he said.
The cast of “BlackWood” extras includes award-winning musicians Allen and Jill Kirkham of Custer. The team included such notables as costume designer James Hatzell, who was an extra on “Dances With Wolves” and has a decades-long career in film and television.
“We didn’t have a lot of scenes with extras, except for a Native American village and city scenes. I was super happy with how many people showed up and got dressed up. Some people showed up in their own costumes,” Canfield said. “With the native village… we got a few families together to do these scenes. This could not have been done without the help of the community.
Writing and directing your own film is a long-awaited dream. Canfield’s lifelong love of film inspired him to attend Colorado Film School, where he earned a degree in writing and directing.
“Nobody wanted to hire a fresh, unknown, penniless director. I fell into the art department, which was really, really cool. I was still able to help create the world of these stories. worked through the ranks to become a production designer,” said Canfield, who has worked on production design for more than 10 films.
“For some reason, ‘BlackWood’ was born. That one snowballed. It all lined up weirdly,” Canfield said. “The story appealed to a lot of different personalities and people. Lead actor Bates Wilder doesn’t usually act in horror movies, but he loved this one. It’s more than a horror movie. It’s a great piece of character. A lot of things continued to fall into place.
Canfield said he enjoys the creativity and the challenges of making a film.
“My original backers didn’t want me to do a western, and I didn’t want to do a modern play,” Canfield said. “I’ve stayed true to myself and I’m super happy that ‘BlackWood’ is coming out. … Producing something that feels like a good story to me – I think this one stands out a bit and I’m proud that I was able to to have this opportunity to finally make a movie. It took a lot of hard work and many years to get to this exact moment.
“I’m super happy it’s gone this far. It’s bigger than I thought it was going to be. To be able to start with an idea and build it from there and shoot it from your hometown, I’m proud that I was able to do that.
Canfield now lives in New Mexico, where the film industry is thriving, but he would love the chance to make another movie in South Dakota.
“I love South Dakota. There’s always a soft spot for the Black Hills in my heart, and if I get the opportunity to do another movie, I’d love it. Everywhere we’ve been (to film ‘BlackWood ‘), we tried to show respect, and to be able to do it again here would be amazing.
Starting July 26, “BlackWood” will stream on cable and digital platforms including Apple TV, iTunes, Prime Video (Amazon), VUDU (FandangoNow is now Vudu), Google Play/Youtube Movies, Microsoft Movies & TV, and Redbox. On demand .
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