Shoot Santa Fe Pilot Project Award Goes to Chilling Look at Social Media

by Anne Maclachlan

In conjunction with the Santa Fe Film Festival, IATSE 480 and the Santa Fe Economic Development Center, and with support from a range of contributors, Shoot Santa Fe’s 2013 TV Pilot Project award went to the trailer for the chilling short #nightslikethese, a disturbing look at the de-personalizing consequences of growing up in the social media age.

Submitted by writer and director Hannah Macpherson, along with mother-daughter team Angelique and Amber Midthunder, the #nightslikethese short won a full production package which led to the creation of the timely and suspenseful TV trailer #hashtag.

“For me, this was such a fun project to work on. It was a great project made by a great group of tight knit, hardworking people and I’m happy to have been involved. And that’s clearly thanks to the SFFF and all of their sponsors,” says Amber Midthunder, who stars in both #nightslikethese and #hashtag.

Executive producer Angelique Midthunder chatted with the Santa Fe Film Festival about the trailer’s development and what the Pilot Project award contributed to what they were able to achieve.

“We want to express our gratitude to the city of Santa Fe, Mayor Javier Gonzales, Jon Hendry of IATSE Local 480 and the Santa Fe Film Festival,” she says, noting that it was due to a large number of prize contributions that made the trailer possible.

Midthunder adds that Santa Fe is a dream film location. The sets, in the less well-known areas of Santa Fe, provided their own character. A normal, everyday feel to the film underscores its darkness. “We wanted to showcase Santa Fe as ‘anytown’ – not just as resorts, Westerns and zombies,” she laughs.

Both shorts strike an uncomfortable chord. “Social media [can be] like a car wreck,” explains Angelique. “You’re drawn to it; you just can’t look away. And it’s real. All these horrific stories, like the Slenderman attack where the two 12-year-old girls stabbed another girl something like 19 times, those are really happening.” Expanding on the theme of social media and young people, she continues, “This is the first generation of teens that has grown up on the Internet. What does that do to them? How is that affecting the way they deal with each other?”

The resulting #hashtag explores this concept. Certainly, the premise and execution are solid to begin with, but the award “took us above and beyond anything we would have been able to accomplish on our own,” Midthunder says.

NaNi Rivera, Director of the Santa Fe Film Festival, notes that this is “not a one-organization thing. We are very grateful to Jon Hendry, president of IATSE Local 480 for their support. Jon pulled a lot of the teams together to make the Pilot Project happen.”

The prize package was used for creating a professional TV show teaser, and included a cash award along with crew hours from IATSE Local 480; cameras, equipment and support services from Panavision; and goods and services from Elliot Location Equipment Rentals, Santa Fe Studios, Santa Fe Airport Grill, Duke City Catering, Oneheadlightink, and TM Equipment Rentals.

As the final award segment of the Santa Fe Film Festival / Shoot Santa Fe competition, the winning trailer landed a pitch to a major Los Angeles television studio. The #hashtag team is now in talks with Lionsgate regarding the possibility of producing it as a TV series.

Director Hannah Macpherson notes, “Developing #hashtag was exciting because, with television, you get the opportunity to tell a story over seasons, you get the chance to spend hours with the characters and watch them grow and change subtly.  The goal was to create a world – a very unique, strange, disarming place – that inspired lots of story.  This world had three parts for us – Santa Fe, beautiful and inspiring in its own way, high school, and the world of social media, which literally is a character, a setting, for the online thriller that takes these teenagers on a dark and terrifying journey.”

#hashtag is indeed as dark and terrifying as intended, and is enhanced by the production values contributed by the sponsoring organizations. It’s the stuff of nightmares discovered to be real after all, in the morning light; and you will not be able to look away.