Halcyon, an adjective describing something peaceful or tranquil, is the title of a film that seems the opposite. In the trailer, things crash, blood spurts, emotions run high, and you can feel the claustrophobia as you’re taken inside the underwater research center where the film unfolds.
“We like the contrast between calm and idyllic,” says producer and screenwriter Ashley Haglund. “Kind of the turbulence in a calm sea.”
Halcyon, a Colorado-made film, will screen at Cinemark 16 on Friday, Dec. 7. It’s a story of two men who have been assigned to work underwater, and who encounter obstacles that leave them trapped there. One of the men is wounded, and it becomes a fight against time to both keep him alive and to maintain emotional sanity.
The concept for the film originated back in December 2010, when Haglund was taking a drive with one of the film’s other writers, Jim Muckian. The two were brainstorming ideas for a low-budget film that didn’t require too many sets, but would still make for a compelling story. Having it take place in an underwater submersive was the perfect fix.
From there the pieces seemed to fall into place: Haglund met her lead actor, Courtney Gains, as he was signing autographs at a haunted house, and she kept his contact information. Gains is pretty well-known, having been in films like Back to the Future (he was a bully in 1955) and Sweet Home Alabama.
He was perfect for a lead role, as was Pepper Binkley, who a immediately after Haglund saw her performance in the film Stone, contacted her agent.
The other male lead, Mykel Shannon Jenkins, she found by chance when the actor who was supposed to play his character, Daniel, dropped out at the last minute. He was on the roster an agency sent over of interested actors.
Ashley was hoping she wouldn’t have to direct the film, and unexpectedly, all she had to do was look to her family: McKenzie Haglund, Ashley’s sister, ended up as the director.
After sending out the script to family for feedback, McKenzie ended up rewriting much of the screenplay and really “made the script what it is,” says Ashley. McKenzie, unlike her sister, had never worked in film before: “She’s probably the only crew member that didn’t do this for a living,” says Ashley.
And besides the surprises in the crew, there were also (good) surprises in the budget. Ashley originally thought she was going to be producing a film with just $20,000, much of this coming from her own savings. The number would become more than 12 times the size: All it took was a vacation and car ride with her parents for them to realize the potential in the project and provide the rest of the funding, Ashley says.
Because of the budget increase, they were able to build a more intricate set, hire better actors, a “kickass crew” made up of mostly Colorado Springs locals, and shoot the movie on RED digital cameras — the same technology used to shoot upcoming movie, The Hobbit.
With all the shooting and editing completed, the next step is shopping it around to film festivals: ranging from the world-renowned Cannes and Sundance to smaller Colorado ones like the Vail Film Festival and the Breckenridge Festival of Film.
“We’re keeping our fingers crossed on some of that stuff,” says Ashley.
So the future looks bright for Halcyon, even if the trailer feels like an end of the world.
Halcyon will play at 7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 7. After the film, there will be a Q&A with Courtney Gains and other members of the crew. Admission is free, and for tickets you can email firstname.lastname@example.org no later than tomorrow, Dec. 5.