On the Mountain
local filmmaker finishes short film, Sugar Mountain
Seeing as daylight has a shelf life in the winter, those of us craving a sunlight fix this winter can get a big gulp of endless summer day action in Peter Elliot Eaton’s short film Sugar Mountain.
The recently completed 17-minute film follows Sam and Mack and their adventures in an anonymous rural town in Wisconsin. For locals, it’ll be hard to maintain that fourth wall of “anonymity,” since the film was shot in recognizable locations throughout Eau Claire.
Sam and Mack are the precocious teens we love to remember ourselves as: they know everything, yet they are consistently amazed by the world. The coming-of-age tale lives somewhere between PG and R in the way my mom and I would always disagree about which movies were “appropriate.” Thematically, it’s tame and identifiable. But in content, well, let’s just say Sam and Mack have “potty mouths.”
This was a conscious decision on the part of Eaton. He says, “Portraying millennial teenagers who consider themselves to be black sheep is hard to keep clean. Kids just don’t speak like they did in the 50s/60s.”
Eaton says that Sugar Mountain is a millennial story where the characters must be given latitude for their rebellion and unrealized ignorance about how the world works. After all, as Eaton says, “They both make mistakes; they’re young.”
Two sequences highlight Sam and Mack’s uneasy entry into adulthood. The first being a single shot which pans through Just Local Food Co-Op (Johnny’s Market in the film). Eaton says, “The shaky single Steadicam was intended to embody the rush and foolishness of stealing something, while illustrating their uneasiness and naivety.”
The second key scene in the film is antithetical to the Superbadesque bro-mance subplots that have built Judd Apatow several homes. In the scene, Sam invites Mack over for a sleepover but Mack is unsure. According to Eaton, this is because Sam comes from a pretty sketchy home – a fact the audience doesn’t know, but illustriously informs the story-arc.
And that is what Sugar Mountain is at its best. Not a story that lives in a vacuum with underdeveloped characters or an overly self-conscious short film which has to tell you everything and tells you nothing.
Sugar Mountain is just right. You really end up empathizing with the characters because you can see yourself in them.
Just watch it already!