Starring Phillip Beaupre, Neil Brookshire, Aled Davies, Jonathan Franklin. Producers: Assya Dimova, Josh Garvin. Music by Gabriel Peterson. Director of Photography: Bryce Drobny. Edited by Neil Brookshire & Bryce Drobny. Sound Editing/Mixing by Neil Brookshire & Seth Asa Sengel.
Produced, Written & Directed by Neil Brookshire
For this story I wanted to explore how we value what we grow up with versus our expectations for change. Uncertainty and a host of other feelings can fill the space between those two realities. But when it comes down to it, we have this moment. Now. And that’s all. What we choose as filler for now dictates our reality. The moments for these brothers are quiet on the outside, but life changing inside.
In addition to those human experiences, there is a connection to the earth, a location. Sometimes we call it home. Sometimes not. The film location is a special place, a family farm. For me, the farm has been a place for reflection, solitude, introspection, rest, and inspiration. But the future of the family’s connection to the land is uncertain. And so we have the deep background of the story.
– Neil Brookshire
Just after finishing principal photography for “Upper Fields,” I went to Virginia to work on a play. As part of my research for the character, I met an incredible artist named Christus Murphy. He was kind enough to spend a few hours talking about his work, his process, and his life as an artist. We met at his studio. Naturally, there were paintings everywhere, on every wall, every surface. There were sketches in drawers, on tables, in piles of sketchbooks. At one point he gestured to a painting about five feet tall, three feet wide. It was a beautiful portrait of a woman. Murphy said the painting took him twenty years to finish. He had done the majority of the work early on, but had continued to experiment with composition, never quite finishing.
We wrapped principal photography for “Upper Fields” in September of 2014. For one reason or another, post production was slowed, delayed, on hold. At times it was frustrating, but then I remembered the painting in Murphy’s studio. This version of “Upper Fields” is a story I was incapable of seeing immediately following production. It would have been a very different piece had it been completed then. Art takes its own time. It has a way of deciding when and how it will get done. And sometimes art plays tricks and is never meant to be completed, rather just an exercise in process. This serpentine mystery has fused its way into the movie.
Phillip, Jon, and I met while attending Northern Illinois University. We were all actors doing our actor thing, but as our university tenure drew to a close, I wondered what might happen afterward. Much like the characters we play in the movie, it was unclear when we’d all be together again, much less work together. Fortunately, they were willing to travel from their homes in New York (Phillip) and Los Angeles (Jon) to rural Wisconsin to make a short film. Bryce and Sam were both film students at Columbia College. Neither was old enough even to rent a car. So I drove down and picked them up. They were a gift. This short piece would not be what it is without them.
I’m deeply grateful for Jon’s and Phil’s openness, patience, and talent to bring these characters to life. I’m indebted to Josh Garvin and Assya Dimova for producing know-how, Bryce for his eye for composition and editing, Sam for his incredible attitude and capability to do whatever, Gabriel for his improvised score, Seth for “sound advice,” and Aled for his haunting cameo performance. Thanks to the Conley/McIntosh/Brookshire clan for support, Deborah Carter for keeping us well fed, Samantha Silva for valuable insight, and Cassie Bissell for being there and tolerating movie-making shenanigans. It goes without saying that this piece would not be what it is without all of these people’s generosity of spirit.
©Dirt Hills Productions MMXIX