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After years of preparation, this summer’s the time to jump into feature length film-making. “The Last 40 Miles” is a survival drama set in Southeast Alaska set to film in September 2017. The actors are Kamy Bruder and Brady Roberts, both with film credits already to their names, coming up to Alaska for the first time to spend a week filming in the woods.
The Muskeg Connection: Creating Southeast through film 072617 AE 1 Chelsea Tremblay, For the Capital City Weekly After years of preparation, this summer’s the time to jump into feature length film-making. “The Last 40 Miles” is a survival drama set in Southeast Alaska set to film in September 2017. The actors are Kamy Bruder and Brady Roberts, both with film credits already to their names, coming up to Alaska for the first time to spend a week filming in the woods.

Movie poster for "The Last 40 Miles." Courtesy image.


Rocket Raptor Films. Courtesy image.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Story last updated at 7/25/2017 - 5:55 pm

The Muskeg Connection: Creating Southeast through film

Summer is about seizing moments. First example: Recently I had a bookstore customer purchase a large wall decoration that we were going to have to mail to her in Wrangell. I packaged it, preparing myself for an apologetic email when the shipping charge turned out to be half again the cost of the item itself. Not an hour later, someone with Alaska Vistas, a guide company out of Wrangell who does tours in the area, also stopped in the store. Was she going back to Wrangell, by chance, I asked, and would it be too much of a bother for her to take this package home with her? Not a problem, she replied, it’ll be at their office down on the harbor. Should be back in town tonight.

The magic of the moment in Alaska is a hard thing to capture in just words. Summer magic’s still something else entirely. So when I heard about Heather Thomas’s plan to film her first full-length feature film this summer, with the community’s help, I had to know more.

Thomas has been making films for years. Together with her husband Brandon, their company Rocket Raptor Films has been a fixture of the Petersburg mixed media scene for years. Filmmaking’s been a passion for Heather Thomas since high school. She moved south briefly to learn more about the trade, but eventually decided she wanted to make films her own way.

“I just thought, maybe there’s a way I could still be happy, near my family and the place I grew up, but still somehow doing this thing that I love,” she said.

After years of preparation, this summer’s the time to jump into feature length film-making. “The Last 40 Miles” is a survival drama set in Southeast Alaska set to film in September 2017. The actors are Kamy Bruder and Brady Roberts, both with film credits already to their names, coming up to Alaska for the first time to spend a week filming in the woods.

The idea for the film came to Thomas years ago, after talking with someone who spends a month or two every year in a set-up moose camp. Fully stocked and ready to go, they wait for their moment and come home only when it’s done.

“I realized, anything could happen in the world and you’d have no idea, just out there at that camp. It just seemed like a cool idea, and turned into kind of a post-apocalyptic kind of thing,” she said.

After that conversation the wheels began to turn, and she turned a what-if scenario into something bigger. The film is about separation from family in an uncertain situation, the risk that comes with having to rely on a stranger and the way our histories dwell under the surface. Her goal is to have the film completed by the end of 2017.

“I created this project with the idea of being able to edit this myself, in three months, without ignoring my children,” she said.

Once it’s edited they’ll be showing it in town before beginning to submit to the festival circuit.

This is just the first in a series of small, story/character-driven projects Thomas wants to do something that would highlight Southeast Alaska in a unique way. She’s tired of seeing Alaska depicted through the lens of reality shows, fishing ventures or stories featuring a serial killer. Thomas looks around the community and sees ideas for future films everywhere, from local businesses to particularly striking scenes on the island. The projects will all be different, but Thomas already knows what they’ll manage to have in common.

“There will always be a little bit of hope in everything I do,” she said.

Combined with enough time, work and community support, she hopes to be making cinematic projects for years to come.

Rocker Raptor Films is still welcoming anyone who wants to make the movie happen, including offering sponsorship opportunities for local businesses, as well as soliciting donations on their website, RocketRaptorFilms.com/support.

Chelsea Tremblay lives and writes in Petersburg. Her column appears seasonally in the Capital City Weekly.