THE HARVEST: A Story About Giving
A CHILD’S LAST WISH TO BECOME A HUNTER
"The Harvest: A Story About Giving" follows Arianna, Tyler, and Casey as they fulfill their wishes to hunt turkey, black bear, and elk. The film introduces Tina Pattison, who founded Hunt of a Lifetime, the controversial group sponsoring these trips, after the Make-A-Wish Foundation denied her dying son’s request to hunt moose. The story also looks deep into America’s hunting culture, where a reverence for nature exists alongside the desire to kill. Yet most indelibly, the film portrays three extraordinary individuals and their families as they enter the wilderness to claim their share of the harvest.
A journey to the point where life and death meet, The Harvest offers a provocative yet respectful look at children who lose their innocence and become hunters.
"The Harvest" was Folk Hero's DOcUMENTARY FEATURE DEBUT
Begun in 2007 and filmed over the course of four years, director Gabriel DeLoach intimately enters the lives of three families struggling to make sense out of the unfairness of life. By maintaining a sincere tone and positing poignant questions, DeLoach succeeds at portraying the brutal but honest reality we can all relate to but somehow try to avoid: death. The characters in this film cannot avoid it, and we are in inspirational awe of how they deal with life’s daily struggles and the taking of the life of another living being. Whether we agree with their actions or not, we may find ourselves conflicted and inspired to remap our convictions.
Main Characters In "THE HARVEST"
Make-A-Wish Refuses to Grant Hunting Wishes
In 1996 the Make-A-Wish foundation granted their last wish involving a firearm to Erik Ness, a young man suffering from brain cancer. Ness’s family and the MAW foundation received an onslaught of threats from anti-hunting groups, including the Humane Society and the now defunct group Friends of Animals.
Along with a few other organizations, Hunt of a Lifetime came into existence to fill the need for hunting adventure wishes that Make-A-Wish would no longer support.
The concept for "The Harvest" was first conceived in 2001 when director Gabriel DeLoach discovered a small ad for Hunt of a Lifetime, still in its infancy, in the back of an Outdoor Life magazine.
Despite earning the consent of Hunt of a Lifetime to pursue the documentary, DeLoach (then a senior in college) did not have the resources to start the film until 2007. That same year he founded Folk Hero Films.
Though the film was first conceived as a debate between pro and anti-hunters (representatives from PETA and individuals involved in the 1996 Make-A-Wish protest were interviewed early on) it was eventually decided that the story should be told solely from the family's perspectives.
The first subject to agree to participate in the film was Tyler Devoe, then thirteen years old and suffering from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Tyler’s dream hunt was to stalk a black bear in the woods of Maine.
Deloach on Filming the Hunts
Tyler’s black bear hunt was my first attempt at filming in a blind. Accompanied by fellow camera operator Ryan Collerd, we were situated 20 yards from the tree stand and 40 yards from the bait bucket, both of which were visible through peepholes. Because black bears possess such a keen sense of smell, we wore clothes that had ripened in a bag of detritus and bathed with “no-scent” soap. We defied the camp census that our presence would foil the hunt for, on the first day of the hunt, the ghostly beast went for the bait. Unfortunately, evening had already set in and made visibility impossible. Tyler wounded the animal which ran off into the humid night. Unprepared to work in total darkness, we taped headlamps to our cameras to film the tense search that ensued.
I had to film from a separate blind looking into Arianna’s. I was not allowed to remove the thick mesh layer from my peepholes because turkeys will spook if they sense the tiniest movement. What made filming this hunt more difficult than the rest was the fact that I had to share it with a television crew from Wired Outdoors. The show’s host, Jason Say, helped sponsor and pay for Arianna's hunt in order to make an episode for his hunting show. He was kind enough to let me tag along–and I liked the added element of documenting a tv crew documenting the hunt–but limited space meant that I could not bring an assistant to run sound. I was made to move my blind 175 yards and out of sight when Arianna’s hunt had reached its final day without success. I heard but never saw the fatal shot, and ran a hundred yards with my camera and audio equipment to film the aftermath.
Stalking elk required a lot of stealth that was difficult to maintain for a two man crew schlepping equipment across the mountains of the Mescalero range in New Mexico. I attribute the success of this hunt to the fact that the elk were in rut–they are far less cautious when looking for a mate. The GoPro camera on Casey’s rifle was somewhat of a burden to manage and film around, but I desperately wanted the barrel end's perspective of Casey’s father, Ken, setting up the firearm for his sightless son. It was an intimate angle I desperately wanted and could never safely achieve on my own in the moment, and the GoPro gave me that luxury.
art in "the harvest"
We worked with the Baltimore design firm Post-Typography to create beautiful visual elements that would establish the tone of the film. For this direction the prologue and credit sequences of the film are built around a series of classical oil paintings depicting hunting scenes. The highly romanticized and stylized depictions of the “noble hunt” are a nice contrast to the reality of the hunts we see in the film.
The difficulty in realizing this concept lie in gathering and licensing 13 hi-res copies of famous classical paintings with different geo locations. Luckily our final selection, including paintings by Frans Snyders, Rubens, and Paul Brill, had us searching in only three countries: Germany, France, and the USA. To stay within our tight budget, we obtained permission to photograph the majority of artworks on or off the wall.
MUSIC IN "THE HARVEST"
We worked with composer Brian Lawlor to develop the tone and score for The Harvest. Brian wrote and recorded over twenty unique pieces for the film while simultaneously finishing his graduate thesis in composition. As scenes in the film were completed Brian would rough out a bed of music for them. More often than not they were near perfect and required little revision.
One of our favorite scenes in the film happens when Arianna and her family visit a Cabela’s sporting goods store. Herein we wanted to evoke a Willy Wonka-esque experience–of a child entering a candy shop for the first time–and Brian’s music captures that sensation exceptionally well.
You can learn more about Brian and his astonishing work by following him on twitter: @brianlawlord.
festivals, VOD & DVD
"The Harvest" ENJOYED it's world premiere at the Camden International Film Festival, reknowned for its dedication to screening the best in new documentary films each year.
After spending two successful years traveling the festival circuit and screening in homes, art galleries, and book stores, The Harvest: A Story About Giving was released on HULU in 2013 and other VOD platforms through our distributor TV4, including Amazon Prime.
We brought back designers Post Typography to put together the DVD packaging, printed on rigid board. The DVD features over 30 mins of bonus material and is for sale in our store.
Excerpt from “When a Dying Kid’s Wish is to Kill” by Robert Ito (Salon.com)
Some of the most moving scenes in the film, though, aren’t even remotely about hunting. DeLoach spends a lot of time with the families, and one learns a lot about the kids and their struggles through their fathers, awesome dads all.
“When you get to be older and you get cancer, well, then, you can say you lived your life,” says Tyler’s perpetually red-eyed dad, in one of the interviews. “Kids shouldn’t have to go through that. Children should get to live their life.” Later in the film, Tyler wonders about the life of the bear he just brought down. “I think it’s been wandering around the woods for about 12 years before I actually got up here,” he says. “So he’s had plenty of time to get ready to get hung on the wall. He’s enjoyed his time.”
It’s an eerie moment, given that Tyler, when he went out for his hunt, was just two years older than that bear. Has he had plenty of time? Does the boy even think about that in those terms?
“Tyler believed that by having a successful hunt, by taking the life of the big bear, that he would defeat his cancer, that it would not come back,” says DeLoach. “I think it’s easy to assign the symbol to the act of what these kids were doing, but for him, he really believed it. At the end of the film, he pretty much says that, that the bear’s the sacrifice for his life. That kind of blew our minds.” Read the full article.