In the final act of an eccentric man who raised his children on treasure hunts. two estranged siblings find they must work together to unlock the secrets of their father’s will, A heartfelt, family adventure story, THE LAST TREASURE HUNT stars writers Kate Murdoch and Casey Nelson as Lucy and Oliver who have to put years of differences aside to get their inheritance.
The drummed has become the hardest sell in indie film these days. A film where real people experience real emotion, but also get to have a bit of fun. So many films that attempt this fall victim to the initial quirk factor, where characters become bespoke artisanal oddballs to inject a little absurdity into the story. That’s what I love about Murdoch and Nelson’s film and their performances – these are not some weird-by-numbers people the filmmaker is generating to create their own world, these are adults put in a ridiculous yet completely believable and well set-up circumstance. Real people have flaws, they get angry, they make mistake. They also laugh and take us on amazing adventures, fun because we feel we are there with them, not some cinematic distance forged in the mind of quirk-happy hipster auteur wanna-bes.
Needless to say, I love THE LAST TREASURE HUNT. This is a film for everyone. You can watch it with your parents or show it to your teens and everyone will enjoy it. It’s a heck of a story with a great journey forced upon two people who want nothing more than to not have to work together, the last gift from a dying father. Beautifully shot on Fisher Island, NY, the film is boundless in energy and announces two new talents. A lot of credit has to go to Patrick Biesemans, who Murdoch and Nelson brought aboard to direct the film. I have great respect for filmmakers who realize that collaboration is one of the best tools of the industry.
I had a chance to catch up with Murdoch and Nelson this week as their film was about to be released on VOD/streaming.
BEARS: So you two wrote this project as sort of a vehicle for your own acting – tell me about the initial discussion. What were some of things you knew you wanted to include for your characters and their relationship?
Murdoch: We hatched the plan to raise money and shoot a film for us to act in while on a run together (also where our production company name Morning Run Productions was born). We were in the midst of writing our first script together, THE PERPETUAL STATE OF GEORGIA. I’m pretty impatient in general, and was saying to Casey how we needed to stop sitting on our asses and just make something ourselves. We have a very brother sister relationship and banter situation (in our work) already so it was a no brainer to set us up in roles where we could take advantage of that. After we hatched the plan, it became a matter of writing roles that we thought were interesting and dynamic, parts that we might not really have gotten the opportunity to audition for.
Bears: A film that is a treasure hunt is always tied to location – tell me about where you shot, your connection to it, and how It affected you plotting and narrative.
Nelson: The house is actually owned by Kate’s family. She went there every summer she can remember and it’s an incredibly important part of her life. Once we knew we were gonna write something we could shoot ourselves, we laid out what we have available to us. We knew that we could get this house as a location, so that became the basis of the story. It’s such a beautiful and unique place, and at the same time is so contained. It was a fantastic place to have a treasure hunt that focuses on the characters and keeps the scale small. Yet because of its size and location (Fisher Island), it added such an incredible production value to the project as a whole. The old saying for writers used to be “Write what you know.” For indie filmmakers, I think it should be “Write what you have.” 😉
BEARS: I like that all the relationships are sort of messy. It feels very honest, no one is really a great person. Can you talk about crafting that on the page and on the screen?
Murdoch: I think we both have a pretty good BS meter, and there’s nothing that feels more like nails on a chalk board than false moments or getting out exposition. We just had to take a step back and not worry if people liked these characters or not. That was probably the hardest thing to get over, because that’s a concern in real life.
I feel like I worry all the time if I’m upsetting someone, or rubbing someone the wrong way. And at the end of the day, the best way to be honest is to throw that away and just think about who these people are. In real life people go through shit, and not everyone is likable.
BEARS: Tell me about working with an outside director. What did you like about him and what do you think he brought to the project that you would not have achieved without him?
Murdoch/Nelson: We found Patrick through this short film he did called Nirvana. It was a Vimeo short of the week. As soon as we saw it, we looked him up, got his email, and reached out to him. He responded to the script so enthusiastically and made us this badass treatment.
He just got us so excited. Patrick had a lot to bring to the table. He’s such a visual guy, and we knew he could really capture the magic of the island and the house which is at the center of the story. He also has darker sensibilities than us. The script was actually a lot more comedic than the finished film ended up being and that’s due to Patrick. I mean that in the best way possible. The blending of the two made a really interesting end result.
Patrick also had his own production company and had a whole team established that he wanted to bring on, including a cinematographer, so that made it so much easier for us not having to fill all of those roles.
BEARS: What’s next for you two? Plan to collaborate again in the future?
Also, Patrick Biesemans, who directed THE LAST TREASURE HUNT, has expressed interest in directing our third script BIRDIE, and is currently meeting with production companies in NY to try to get that off the ground. So it’s about to be a very busy time for us, which is exciting.
THE LAST TREASURE HUNT is out now on iTunes and other VOD/Streaming platforms.