Sam Senser of Louisville has been behind the lens again filming his latest production, “The Legend of Wolfe Canyon.”
This four-minute flick is currently entered in the 2018 Omaha Film Festival in the Best Nebraska Short Film, Best Cinematography and a few other categories. It has already won best use of prop and second place overall in the 48-Hour Film Challenge.
“The plot of the film is that two traveling cowboys are sitting at a fire when they hear gunshots,” Senser explained. “They jump up and turn around only to find nobody. A distant, quiet violin begins to play and lures the cowboys to an empty ghost town. The lanterns are lighted and the fire is burning but there are no signs of people anywhere.”
The cowboys then hear people chanting, “It’s never been more clear!”
“The cowboys turn around swiftly to reveal a large crowd of people all chanting in sync. When the sounds of a familiar guitar tune ring out, the cowboys begin to realize where they are,” he said. In front of them is the cowboy’s deceased wife repeating the tune she sang the night she died.
This film proved more challenging than previous productions in many ways. “The biggest challenge we faced, since it was a 48-Hour Film Challenge, was time and weather. We had one night to film it and, in between rain and thunder cracks, it was very difficult to get good clean audio recordings and keep the equipment dry,” he said.
Senser also worked with a large number of cast members for “The Legend of Wolfe Canyon.”
“It was fun to direct a bigger group and it made it feel more like an actual movie set even though at times, it could be hard to corral everyone,” Senser said.
The main cast members are Jake Bruce as Cowboy 1, Carter Terry as Cowboy with the Guitar, Johnny Duplancich as the Sheriff, Carl Jacobsen as Cowboy in Black, John Senser as Guy in Pajamas and Olivia Minchow as Clara.
The film also had to fit in the thriller genre, include a calculator as a prop and incorporate the phrase, “It’s never been more clear.”
From the start, Senser knew he wanted to make the film a Western no matter “what prop or genre we got for the challenge.”
He and his volunteers started prop hunting, acquiring costumes, procuring light equipment and building the stage seen at the end of the movie weeks beforehand. “We went antique hunting and figured out how we wanted the town to look and be lighted,” he said.
The writing and filming was done in the stipulated 48 hours.
“The first night we got our theme, prop and line. We spent the first night just coming up with the story and planning out the shots and doing a storyboard. And then on the second day, we prepared the Western town, got lights ready, lanterns hung and equipment charged,” Senser said.
Because the film was so different from his previous productions and had a much larger cast, Senser asked for help from his friends.
“Usually, I am the cinematographer, lighting guy, sound guy — everything. But this time I had a friend of mine, Monet, help me with art direction. I had my friend, Cade, hold the boom mic and do all the on-location audio, and I had someone to help move lights between shots. It was like a whole team and it really worked out,” he said.
Senser has won many awards for his productions over the past five years including Best Nebraska Short in the 2017 Omaha Film Festival with “The Quest for Excalispoon.” “The Adventures of Vanman and Truckboy” also took second place at the film festival in 2016 and Best of Show in the National BEA Festival. Four of his Public Service Announcements won the Project Yellow Light competition.
Senser will learn if “The Legend of Wolfe Canyon” won any new awards Sunday, March 11, the last day of the film festival.