With Vancouver Short Film Festival starting just tomorrow, there’s a wide array of great short films coming out, but one of the most anticipated is Michelle Muldoon’s Last Stand to Nowhere. A rare idea of a film which is sure to increase more and more in the future. Last Stand to Nowhere takes place in western times. Already having been making quite a success last year, the short film is finally coming back to its hometown for the first official local screening. I spoke with Michelle and asked her some questions regarding such a film, which I hope to see more types of myself.
HNMAG: Why did you choose to do an all female western instead of the typical male format?
Michelle: About 5 years ago, I was helping out on a short film shoot in Jamestown, and there were three of us walking down Main Street. It really made me think back to the Westerns that I watched years ago with my dad, and I never saw someone like us three women walking down the street for that big heroic moment. That was the inspiration. Especially now with so many female centred superhero films and the feeling a woman gets when she sees a female superhero is different when she sees a male. It’s easier to project your own aspirations and fantasies of herohood doing the right thing.
HNMAG: So making different types of heroic women in all kinds of time periods?
Michelle: Yeah, and we have NEVER seen that in a western, so to enhance that greater connection, we used a certain genre for a film.
HNMAG: Did going with a western genre make production easier or harder?
Michelle: Harder, by a LONG shot. We needed exteriors, so there’s only two western towns in the area that are available, and both of them will be generally booked quite heavily. It was difficult to find a time slot, and then we had to negotiate a price range that we as a small production could afford. We were lucky that bordertown had a slot open, and the owners of the town were more than happy to support something local. So it all worked out, but it took a bit of time to make that happen. Then when you get an exterior in a town like that, it doesn’t have power, it doesn’t have washrooms, it doesn’t have water. So, you have to bring EVERYTHING.
HNMAG: Speaking of challenges, what were some of the biggest challenges that went into rewriting the script into this format from the original story?
Michelle: First of all, this is the most retold story in the history of Westerns. The story of the O.K. corral, was first retold by Wyatt Earp to Stuart Lake, a screenwriter in 1929, and then the first time the story was referenced was in the 30’s with My Daughter Clementine. Ever since then, it has been a recurring story in multiple genres, even Star Trek did a fight at O.K. Corral story. For me, the no-brainer was to choose a story that people who love Westerns all over the world would know about. That way there would be a reference for who these people were in the original format. The challenge was trying to bring something fresh because a story that old and that’s been told SO MANY times, has become something like a broken telephone of stories. Everybody has put their own interpretation in.
HNMAG: And can you explain how you made it fresh?
Michelle: First we wanted to combine both the traditional Western storytelling of the 40’s and 50’s, with the sensibility of the Italian Westerns of the 60’s and 70’s. While the setting feels familiar in the type of town that you would see in a Gary Cooper film, we wanted that sense of ‘Who was really right, who was really wrong, everybody’s got a little bad in them’ that you find in the Spaghetti Westerns. It was combining the familiar with the re-interpretation of the genre, which is what it really became.
HNMAG: How did you find the right women to play the roles?
Michelle: They were on my wishlist basically, and they all said ‘yes’ right off the bat. It was something I was really fortunate about, I had worked a couple years on the casting table at Cold Reading Series, I got a large number of actors. Over the years, I’ve met actors through actors, and the wishlist started to build through this, so I decided “I’m going to ask a few people that I would really LOVE for these parts” and they kept saying Yes. So it actually wasn’t as hard as it should’ve been. The pitch was “How’d you like to do a Western, and I promise no corsets.” Because women are tired of wearing corsets in period pieces. That was easy. No big flouncy skirts, no rib-cutting corsets.
HNMAG: Do you feel this movie will provide a strong message regarding female roles?
Michelle: I think it has. We have been on the festival circuit almost a year now, so we finished a little too late to apply to the Vancouver film festivals in 2019. So this is actually our 14th festival, but our first in Vancouver. The feedback across the board has been “This is something fresh, this is something new” We screened in October at one of those exclusive Western Festivals in Spain and even the festival director pulled me aside for a lunch and said “Y’know, we need more women in Westerns. This is a GREAT start.” I think we ARE a focus of conversation at every festival we’ve screened at, I’m looking forward to the conversations people will have in Vancouver. I think what we’ve shown is that you have to push the ‘Western’ further to really make change and I’m hoping it’ll inspire other people to enter into the genre as well.
HNMAG: Are there any plans to make other films with all female main roles? Possibly even a full length?
Michelle: Well, I’m working on pitching this as a limited series, so I am still working on the pilot. It would still maintain the concept that the major players are female. I also want to start financing for my first feature which is a mixed ensemble cast, both age AND gender. But the two primary characters are still women. It seems to be a little niche that’s growing for me so I think that’s the direction I’ll continue going.
Michelle has shown great gratitude in finally having the film be shown here. Vancouver Short Film Festival is the perfect place for it to be premiered in Vancouver, and I’m hoping it goes to some more local film events, maybe even other provinces. If you’re attending VSFF, be sure to watch Last Stand to Nowhere, it is sure to be the Best of the Westerns.