Melanie Mullen brings thriller Backcountry back home
Though she’s listed as Associate Producer, there was a day on set of the indie thriller Backcountry that Melanie Mullen was in charge. First order of business ? Deal with the bear that was rummaging around the set. Only appropriate for a movie about a bear stalking a young couple through the woods.
“It’s Day One, starting a 19-day adventure of shooting a movie in the woods, and there’s a real bear that’s coming at us,” says Mullen, the Niagara Falls-born sister of director April Mullen. “We had somebody come in and train us on what to do, like a Bear Alert Team !”
On another occasion, the trailers for the film’s stars got stuck in the mud “in the middle of nowhere.” Mullen had to arrange for another truck to find them and pull them out of the muck. “That was like my initiation to a Canadian movie,” she says. When she hooked up with the film’s actual producer later, she said “now I’m good to go. I can do anything if I could do that.”
Directed by Adam MacDonald, the Canadian-made Backcountry has earned several strong reviews since it premiered at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival. It follows a city couple played by Jeff Roop and Missy Peregrym as they ditch modern amenities for a weekend getaway in the woods. While camping, they encounter an off-putting stranger, played by Eric Balfour, who wears out his welcome fast. But as the couple depart, they become lost while being tracked by a black bear. L.A. Times critic Robert Abele says the film “brings on the bloody, but it finds atmospheric ways to depict how the bucolic hush of a nature getaway can morph into a survival nightmare for the unprepared.”
Bringing a movie to her hometown is a familiar feeling for Mullen’s sister April, the director of 88, Dead Before Dawn and the upcoming horror flick Farhope Tower. Mullen has appeared briefly in all her sister’s films, and took a hands-on approach behind the scenes as well. For Backcountry, she was initially hired as ‘sustainability co-ordinator’ – helping reduce waste and minimize the film’s environmental impact – but producers felt she deserved a larger title.
“They said ‘You’re doing way more than just sustainability co-ordinating, you should be the associate producer.'” But keeping the film as green as possible was still her focus. Her efforts during Dead Before Dawn earned the film a Green Screen Award at the Planet in Focus Film Festival.
“For moviemaking, you build a whole world and then you end up wasting the whole world,” says Mullen. “It’s a lot of waste, not a lot of longterm thinking. For April’s movies and with Backcountry, we just tried to reduce waste as much as we could.” Mullen was on set every day for the Backcountry shoot, shot mostly in North Bay and then about a week in Vancouver for the bear footage.
“Everybody was terrified (at first),” she recalls. “But it’s funny, because the bears were 90 per cent bum when we got there. Their whole bodies were bum with a little head, and they were so cuddly. “They looked pretty sweet. They were all eating Timbits. It was like the most Canadian movie ever !”
The film opens for a one-week engagement at the Niagara Square Cinemas starting Aug. 28.
Source : Niagara Falls Review (19/08/2015)