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Roseville brothers get lost in the woods in film debut

Release feature-length horror film shot in Tahoe, Emigrant Gap
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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The brothers had one week left until they'd become shooting targets for unsuspecting hunters.

They had to move fast. The filmmakers were a week behind schedule and had faced several obstacles in making their first feature-length movie, leaving them frustrated. But one night in Emigrant Gap, where they were filming, they had an epiphany. They'd persevere.

"The night we decided, 'We're going to do this,' we had real hunters arrive," Phillip Ellering said. "That's the last thing you want to hear. They're shooting at furry things when you're dressing up in a (beast) costume."

Oops.

Hunting season probably wasn't the best time to film a horror movie involving actors dressing up as a big, brown beast. So the crew packed up and drove to Tahoe National Forest to film the rest of their independent production, "Lost Woods," which was released on DVD June 5.

The movie is about a young man named Darrin Noland who agrees to go camping with friends and is upset to learn that a guy named Warren, who he's avoided since junior high school, has tagged along, forcing Darrin to "take on his beast within."

The Ellering brothers filmed scenes in the mountains and in their hometown of Roseville. Both graduated from Woodcreek High School - Phillip in 2000 and Nathan in 2002. After attending film school in Florida, the brothers relocated to Los Angeles.

"We just knew that is where the industry is," Phillip Ellering, 30, said. "We love California. ... We're California boys. We wanted to get to an area where the industry is thriving."

They tackled odd jobs - security, busing tables and other stints - and now work as bartenders. Along the way, they never forgot their dream to make movies. They brainstormed ideas and settled upon a genre.

"The best thing we can do is make a monster movie," Phillip Ellering said.

They wrote the screenplay, took time off work and invited their actor friends, most Roseville natives, to play lead roles. They filmed the movie in September 2009.

"We had a good crash course on how to make a full-length movie," Nathan Ellering, 27, said.

Childhood friend Garrett Vander Leun plays Warren. He said he's honored to be part of the film.

"We camped out for three or four weeks straight, getting up early and filming all day and then laughing and talking and smelling like rotten feet around a campfire at night," Vander Leun said. "It was like a high school reunion without the posturing. It was perfect."

The Ellering brothers oversaw a daily crew of about eight people. About 50 people pitched in on the movie, helping with such elements as post-production and the soundtrack.

Then, a dark period followed - no one was knocking down their door eager to release the film. Three years later, they'd moved on when they heard from a producer excited about "Lost Woods." The movie is now available for instant streaming or DVD purchase on Amazon.

"It's amazing," Phillip Ellering said. "Big-time directors, they don't ever want to talk about their first movie because they're usually so bad. But we feel super lucky (with) our first film. It is what it is. It's a passion project and it's already doing better than we imagined."

The brothers are currently writing the script for their second film. They say their talents complement one another and plan to continue co-directing in the future.

"Our ideas aren't validated and taken to the limits of what they can be until we run them past each other," Nathan Ellering said.

By necessity they acted in their first film. But that's not the plan for next time around.

"Moving forward, we want to stay behind the camera," Phillip Ellering said.

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.

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How to watch "Lost Woods"