A LAKE OF ASHES, 18min., Canada, Fantasy
Directed by W. James Alexander
In a not too distant future wracked by ecological devastation, a young boy grows up on an isolated lake. Though not yet destroyed by fire, the land he lives on and the lake at its center are slowly dying. As the boy wanders, drawing pictures of the dead animals and decaying landscape, refugees of all sorts start to pour in. Unable to rouse his despondent and abusive father, the boy takes matters into his own hands helping an old woman who is dying of thirst, and hiding from a strange animal-like man that would do him harm until all boils over and chaotic violence consumes the life he knows and casts him to the wind.
A Lake of Ashes is a sci-fi thriller born out of bearing witness to our changing world, when I moved West I was taken aback by the beauty of the land and soon after shocked by the level of ecological turmoil the region already experiences. As the fires, droughts, and storms consistently worsened past the predictions of experts a whole world took shape in my mind. If we’re already here… where will we be in a few decades?
Rather than a world shaken by a singular catastrophe like nuclear war, the film depicts a world that has experienced a long slow fall from grace reaching critical-mass. Labor capacity falling with the unbearable heat and an aging population leading to broken infrastructure, people draining from new rural ghost towns to the buckling cities, a green revolution that only made it halfway and left us stranded and hamstrung with technology going backwards, overflowing refugee camps, and more. All equals a reverse Oregon Trail where hopeless people flee East in ever-increasing numbers searching for any type of safety while opportunistic brigands prey upon them in the new lawless West.
A Lake of Ashes is a small sliver of this world, a boy and his father living on a lake poisoned by bacterial blooms caused by the changing climate and evaporating into nothing. The world of the film shows the uneven distribution of this perilous future as the land it is centered on is not yet dead but instead persists in a patchwork waiting for its luck to run out. People who don’t have their own places to hide meander across the land in search of sanctuary, but instead only signal the forward march of destruction.
This world is explored further in the feature script, Passage, in which a farm boy who loses his ancestral home joins a gang of robbers who trick the wealthy into letting them be guides to their safe houses only to rob and kill them, or simply wreaking havoc on the destitute as they cross the interior in search of safety.
The film was shot in real wilderness areas under threat of fire and drought, a lake that is really drying, and land in danger of burning with smoke visible on the horizon during production; all to depict the beauty and danger with images you can believe and a story that reflects the emerging new world we are all headed towards.
Get to know the filmmaker:
1. What motivated you to make this film?
One day I stepped outside and the mountains and ocean I could usually see from the door were replaced by a wall of pure grey little more than 100 feet from me, it wasn't fog, it was smoke... That was the inciting incident for the short and feature script.
2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?
Two years, we nearly made it the first year, but it fell apart, tried again the next summer and got it done, few months of post after that.
3. How would you describe your film in two words!?
4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
The biggest obstacle was the combination of the wild environment we shot in (a fatal bear attack occurred in the area only a month before shooting) and that we had so many background actors we had to manage there with limited resources.
5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
My reaction to the feedback video was pure happiness, seeing that it worked for the audience, also I thought it was funny that one person liked it, but thought the refugees were zombies, fair enough!
6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?
I always wanted to make films or at the very least tell stories, even my earliest kindergarten writings say so.
7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?
The experience has been great, the only obvious thing is I wish it was an event that I could come to!
9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?
Film Freeway is a breeze, thankful for it.
10. What is your favorite meal?
As many yellow kiwis as I can possibly ingest.
11. What is next for you? A new film?
Next is either make the feature version 'A Lake of Ashes' AKA 'Passage', which would be a dream, or make a more contained sci-fi horror feature that I wrote, also a dream, but slightly less expensive.