Writer/Director N.D. Wilson is an established young adult book author of the '100 Cupboards Series' and 'Ashtown Burials Series' both published by Random House. His new series 'Outlaws of Time' released in April 2016.
Confinement has always been creative jet fuel for me. Limit the size of my canvas, add fixed obstacles and a ticking clock, and my imagination immediately begins playing at Houdini, trying to find a way to emerge with something sparkling and defiant. For years, this personality defect was something I only put to use in my novels and short fiction. Esquire asked me if I could write a story on a small cocktail napkin. I cut it into strips, typed a story on it, and hand stitched it into a miniscule book. In my newest YA series (Outlaws of Time) my protagonist has rattlesnakes grafted into his arms, giving his hands distinct wills and personalities.
And then there was film. Limitations galore. And I couldn’t have been happier.
I was given a very small budget ($400,000) and one piece of cast (Tommy Cash, Johnny Cash’s genteel, surviving brother). With those two fixed points in place, I went to sleep one night and woke up the next morning having watched (and loved) the entirety of The River Thief in my head. I knew the palette, the raw and ruggedly beautiful visual tone the film needed; I knew my locations (all within 100 miles of where I was born on the Idaho/Washington border), and I knew almost all of the cast. I knew the story of guilt, loss, and heartbreaking gift that I had to tell. All I had left to do was write it, cast it, and actually shoot it.
I got on the phone with Joel Courtney, my first choice for lead, and discovered one more extremely fixed point. He was leaving in three weeks to shoot a TV show in New Mexico.
Somehow, I thought I could pull this off. Somehow, the producers believed me. I wrote the script in three days. We wrapped principal in ten.
The crew was full of heroes. The cast poured themselves out for me. We all survived. I’m beyond grateful to have been a part of such a strange and intense cinematic birth.
Have a cigar. The River Thief is here.