|IN THE HOLLOW|
|Crew: ||Producer: Robert Thomas Hazen, Austin Bunn, Spencer Gillis, Chris Cocco
- Cinematography: Spencer Gillis
- Editing: Austin Bunn
- Sound: Ryan Price
- PA: Jesse Turk & Lizzi Brooks
- Catering: April Bunn
- Asst. Dir.: Bryan Horch
- 1st Asst. Camera: Andrew Kennelly|
In May 1988, girlfriends Claudia Brenner and Rebecca Wight were attacked while hiking the Appalachian Trail by a 'mountain man' named Stephen Roy Carr. IN THE HOLLOW tells the story of the shooting, Wight's death, and Brenner's desperate survival (and later transformation into an advocate for hate crime legislation in the U.S.) as she returns to the trail for the first time since the shooting.
The film combines documentary and narrative film elements, using the actual locations on the trail and dramatizations written by Claudia Brenner and director/screenwriter Austin Bunn based on her testimony. The film follows Brenner as she hikes the Appalachian Trail in search of the site of the shooting and path of her survival.
Austin Bunn is a writer, screenwriter, and professor. A Michener-Copernicus Fellow, he is the author of The Brink, published by Harper Perennial (2015). He wrote the script for Kill Your Darlings, with the film's director John Krokidas, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and won the International Days Prize at the Venice Film Festival. A graduate of Yale and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, he teaches at Cornell University.
His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, Zoetrope, The Pushcart Prize, Best American Science and Nature Writing, and elsewhere. His monologue, "Basement Story," won the Missouri Review Audio Essay Prize and has been broadcast on WBEZ, Third Coast, Australian Radio, and Michigan Public Radio.
His short documentaries, "Lavender Hill" and "In the Hollow," have screened at Frameline (SF), OutFest (LA), Provincetown International Film Festival (MA), and elsewhere.
“Conjurings.” That was the word I used to describe the dramatizations that would serve as the spine to In the Hollow, a hybrid documentary that mixes nonfiction and fiction to tell a harrowing survivor’s tale. The film follows two young lovers, Claudia Brenner and Rebecca Wight, as they hiked the Appalachian Trail in 1988 and were stalked by a “mountain man” named Stephen Roy Carr who eventually shot them eight times. Claudia Brenner, hit in the head, neck and arm, had to hike four miles out of the woods to her rescue. Rebecca died on the trail.
This notorious attack – one of the very few acts of violence on the trail -- became a touchstone in the origin story of Hate Crime legislation, but it presented unique challenges to a film adaptation. How to capture the uniquely visceral experience without exploiting it? What was the cinematic present tense I could show effectively on film? The solution lay in expanding the convention of “reenactments” by creating two present tenses – one of the event itself, written and shot as though it were a stand-alone dramatized film, set against story of the survivor herself hiking into her past. Claudia had never been back on the trail until we joined her.
As a screenwriter, I’ve worked with true stories before. My script for Kill Your Darlings, based the little known murder that brought together the Beat Generation writers, required extensive research, and I worked for nearly a decade as a journalist for The New York Times Magazine and elsewhere. With In the Hollow, Claudia Brenner served not just as a character in the film, but a collaborator as well. In addition to her testimony, Claudia contributed the hiking packs, her shoes, and the t-shirts the actors wore, even the sleeping bag that Claudia later covered her dying body with -- a powerful artifact of traumatic experience the film hopes to capture.
This ghostliness extended to production. In the Hollow uses actors to hike the very trail and camp in the very spots where Rebecca and Claudia had been. The script, developed collaboratively with Claudia Brenner, carefully tracks with her memories of the experience so that it attains a kind of veracity and honesty. And Spencer Gillis’s cinematography widened the frame to immerse our characters in the actual location, inside the beautiful, if eerie and indifferent, natural landscape.