“Smoke” is a short film, which was adapted from Alan Heathcock’s bestseller VOLT, which is a collection of short stories. It was hailed as the best book released in 2011. Alan Heathcock is also a full time professor at Boise State University in Boise, Idaho. You can watch the film in Vimeo here.
When reflecting on the short story, “Smoke,” Heathcock shared, “It started when I was 9 years old and my grandfather told me a story.” Heathcock’s grandfather told him a haunting story that stuck with him for many years after. His grandfather worked as a foreman driving the Oklahoma oil fields. One day, his truck came nose to nose with another on a narrow, impassable stretch of road. He told the other guy he had to put his car in reverse and back out. The guy refused, so he grabbed a tire iron and hit that man “until he went back from where he came,” Heathcock says.
“I thought about that story for a long, long time. If you hit someone with a tire iron, you’re that close to altering your life, the lives of your children and grandchildren, how you understand yourself,” Heathcock says.
That became the inspiration for “Smoke,” which tells a twisted imagining of the rest of the story that goes on an epic mythological bent.
Heathcock can add executive producer to his already decorated resume, which includes bestselling author and Boise State University professor. He provided oversight to Boise directors/producers Cody Gittings and Stephen Heleker, who approached Heathcock about bringing his short story to the big screen. The result of those efforts was Wednesday night’s SVFF premiere of Smoke, featuring two must-see performances from Joel Nagle and Amadeus Serafini and some beautiful Idaho backdrops.
In “Smoke,” Serafini plays Vernon, a teenager on the verge of manhood whose father (played by Joel Nagle) forces him to help him dispose of the body of a man the dad murdered in a fit of rage. Vernon struggles to keep his emotional footing by talking with an imaginary “Roy Rogers” (Boise actor Nick Garcia). The film also features Idaho Shakespeare Festival company actress Jodi Dominick.
When Boise filmmakers Stephen Heleker and Cody Gittings read Alan Heathcock’s “Volt,” a story collection about the denizens of a fictional town, they were struck by the story “Smoke.” It’s a tale about a young man whose father forces him to help him dispose of the body of a man he murdered in a fit of rage.
“It was so beautifully contained, with just a few characters and locations, but the scope of it encompassed these huge moral questions and ideas,” Heleker says. “It was perfect for a short film.”
They approached Heathcock, who was immediately signed on. They collaborated on the screenplay with Heathcock, co-directed the film and — in 2014 — shot for a week and a day at various locations in Idaho with a cast of actors from Los Angeles and Boise.
The moody literary film made its world premiere at the Sun Valley Film Festival and screened at Filmfort at Boise’s Treefort Music Fest a few weeks later.
Now the public can see “Smoke” for free online here via Vimeo.com.
“We just wanted to get it out there for people to see,” Heathcock says — especially because Amadeus Serafini, one of the stars of “Smoke,” is now starring as Kieran Wilcox in MTV’s “Scream the TV Series.”
“He’s got a lot of fans now who will want to see it,” Heathcock says.
Putting it out there for free — rather than look for a distributor or go the on-demand route — felt like the right thing to do for the community that sprang up around the project, Heleker says.
“We had so many friends and family who backed the film, it didn’t feel right to turn around and say, ‘OK, now, pay to watch it,” he says.
Gittings and Heleker, both 28, met in the honors college at Boise State, where Heathcock taught at the time. Gittings lived across the hall from Heleker’s twin brother, Marcus, who also is a filmmaker. Gittings and Stephen Heleker worked on several shorts together before “Smoke.” It was the biggest thing any of them had done.