Druid Peak is a film about a troubled teen named Owen (Spencer Treat Clark), who is sent out to live with his father in Wyoming after an incident goes horribly wrong. Owens father Everett (Andrew Wilson) is a biologist on Yellowstone’s wolf reintroduction program. Upon Owen’s first encounter with a Canadian grey wolf, the creature’s deep penetrating gaze stirs something long dead inside himself. Owen must decide how far he will go to protect the wolves, his father, and the place he has finally come to call home.
Druid Peak is a beautiful film, set against the scenic nature of the Yellowstone National Park, portraying a young man's transition from adolescence into manhood, while touching upon several timely topics and displaying the connection between man and nature.
While Hollywood is known to have a shortage of female filmmakers, Druid Peak is the exception to the rule. The film was created by female writer, director, cinematographer and producers, which makes it stand out among the crowd. The film deals with the relevant topic of bullying, told from the aggressor's perspective, with sensitivity and clarity. It also engages the viewer in the issue of America's wolf population, which is one of the most hotly debated environmental issues at the moment.
Writer and director Marni Zelnick has served as a Producer on James Franco’s The Clerk's Tale (Official Selection 2010 Cannes Film Festival); Assistant Director on Homewrecker (Best of Next 2010 Sundance Film Festival) and William Vincent (Official Selection 2010 Tribeca Film Festival); Associate Producer on Camp Victory, Afghanistan (2010 SXSW Film Festival). Zelnick has also served as Producer on New York visual artist Carter’s feature debut, Maladies, starring James Franco and Catherine Keener; and most recently, Producer on The Stare, written and directed by Jay Anania and starring James Franco and Winona Ryder.
Marni used to spend the summers in Wyoming and there she fell in love with the beautiful landscape. She says she felt real freedom there, and that made her think about how the environments we’re in can dictate who we are as people and how significant that can be when you’re young and still finding out who you are or could be. She knew that it was something she wanted to write about, and that's when the idea for Druid Peak was born.
Then, as she was finishing her graduate degree at NYU, she heard about the wolf reintroduction program. The wolf reintroduction program was about a whole species getting a second chance. It was a perfect parallel for a story about a kid who needed one.
In an interview with Marni Zelnick she explains why she choose to use the wolf as the main animal in the movie.
To some degree the wolves chose me, in the sense that the wolves were already an issue in Yellowstone when I went to write this movie. Not just an issue—they were the issue. And of course I was drawn to the wolf reintroduction program because it was one of kind. At the time, it was the only successful predator reintroduction program in the world. So it was on the cutting edge of the conservation movement. But the thing that really closed the deal for me was that when I started to do the research for the script, one of the first things I read was that in the entire history of humankind there wasn’t a single documented instance of a wolf killing a human being. Not one. So here’s this creature that we’ve built up so much fear and anxiety around, that we’ve mythologized and demonized to some degree, and it turns out that creature means us no ill. Given any choice in the matter, a wolf will have absolutely nothing to do with a human. It’s pretty much just a huge misunderstanding. Aside from just being moved by that— there was an obvious and very natural parallel between a very misunderstood species and a misunderstood kid.
Marni says she put everything she feels most passionately about into this movie: kids and animals and the environment and our capacity as human being to change.
The main character Owen comes from a small town where he gets into all kinds of trouble, he is a bully and a main streak. But when he comes to Wyoming he changes. Marni explains Owen as a kid who was just in the wrong place.
I think environments are like relationships—that different environments can bring out different things in you the same way different people can. Owen is a kid trapped in dead end town. And he’s a smart kid. He may not be self-aware enough to articulate it, but he knows his life isn’t going anywhere. That there’s nothing there for him. He needs space and place to gnash his teeth at. And he needs to feel small in the universe. When he’s given those things, he’s a bit like a repotted plant. He can finally grow.
The main message of Druid Peak is about change. It shows that change is possible. And that sometimes we as human beings overcomplicate it. It’s not about complete upheaval. It’s just about making a series of different choices, small choices, one after another, day after day.
Director / Screenwriter: Marni Zelnick
Cinematographer: Rachel Morrison
Principal Cast: Andrew Wilson, Spencer Treat Clark, Rachel Korine
For more information about Dances with Films and Druid Peak, click on the links below.