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'Villain' may become next movie to be filmed in Alaska

Ben Anderson

It’s been relatively quiet for moviemaking in the Last Frontier since the last major production -- the Nicolas Cage and Jon Cusack true-crime serial-killer flick “The Frozen Ground” -- wrapped production in winter 2011. But New York-based production company Wayfare Entertainment Ventures looks poised to bring a multimillion-dollar film to the 49th state.

Titled “Villain,” the film currently has a script and director attached, and is searching for lead actors. According to a press release from Wayfare Entertainment, the film is about “two brothers as they confront their dark past in an unforgiving wilderness” -- and in movie speak, that usually means Alaska.

The recent press release indicates that Alaska is the first choice for shooting and adds to other developments in the production. In addition to an already-completed script by newcomer screenwriter Josh Zetumer -- who is also co-credited with the upcoming RoboCop remake -- a big-name director has signed onto the project.

That would be David Slade, who directed the hugely successful “Twilight: Eclipse” in 2010 and has a bit of Alaska experience, kind of: he also directed 2007’s “30 Days of Night” which purported to be about vampires in Barrow, Alaska, but was filmed largely in New Zealand.

According to Wayfare production head Jeremy Walker, Alaska is the first choice for filming, though there are other factors at play.

“Alaska is currently our first choice for shooting,” Walker wrote in an email to Alaska Dispatch, “however, given the fact that the story takes place during the transitional climate of the post-winter months, it seems like we only have two possible shooting windows:  April or October.”

Walker added that since casting is still ongoing, by the time the production is ready to begin, Alaska’s extreme cold and short daylight hours may make it difficult to produce the movie here if the scheduling doesn’t work.

“We are trying to avoid this, though, as Alaska has everything we need and we're hoping to be there,” Walker said.

If the film does end up in Alaska, whether in April or October, it would fall under the previous set of tax credits, which were set to expire in summer 2013. It represents an important milestone for the nascent Alaska film industry, which has been stalled in recent months when it comes to feature films as its future has remained uncertain.

Wanetta Ayers, director of the Alaska Department of Commerce Community and Economic Development, which oversees the Alaska Film Office in charge of approving or denying tax credits, said that the production had not yet filed for any pre-approval of credits.

“That production has not applied for a production incentive,” Ayers said of “Villain,” but added “it’s not unusual for productions to become public before they’ve actually submitted their paperwork, and that’s the case here.”

Ayers said that doesn’t mean Wayfare hasn’t been communicative with the Alaska Film Office, though. “We are aware of the project, and they have been in contact with the film office."

Though the reality TV boom has continued, and commercials are still being filmed, local filmmakers hope that the program will continue to attract big-budget feature film productions like the approximately $30 million “Frozen Ground” and the similarly-budgeted “Big Miracle.”

Also eyeing the Last Frontier is an action film dubbed “Hunter Killer,” which is expected to cost as much as $100 million. That film has already pre-qualified for a tax credit.

“Villain” may not be budgeted quite that high, but with the right star power attached, it could give another kick in the pants to the growing Alaska film industry.

Contact Ben Anderson at ben(at)alaskadispatch.com