Interview: Jesse Edwards / The Stolen Valley (2022)

Walkden Entertainment (aka Peter Walkden) enjoyed chatting with Jesse Edwards, director, writer and one of the producers of The Stolen Valley (2022), available digitally from April 17th in Australia and New Zealand, thanks to Lightbulb Film Distribution.

Let’s break the ice with a fun question: what is your all-time favourite film and why?

Ratatouille (2007) directed by Brad Bird. It’s a film that is accessible and entertaining for all ages, but if you break it down and look at what is happening, it’s such a beautiful story of inclusion, love, and sacrifice. People think nothing of that little rat, and yet, when given the chance, he is capable of creating such beautiful things. I think that spark is inside everyone. Anyone can cook!

Are you a big fan of the Western Genre? 

Not particularly, but I am a fan of well-told stories and films like Hell or Highwater and Wind River, absolutely inspired by “The Stolen Valley”.

As director and writer for The Stolen Valley, how did you create the story?

The story is the sum of a lot of different goals, but it started with the location. I love Utah; the landscapes are incredible. Nature is one of the places I can always find Peace. My friend Kelly is a location manager in Kanab, UT, a couple of hours north of the Grand Canyon, and I have always wanted to make a film there. I had two daughters at the time I was writing this (I have 3 girls and a boy now!), and I wanted to tell a story led by courageous women. I also wanted to tell a story around the Indigenous people of America, while making something entertaining and exciting.

Do you personally enjoy directing, producing, or writing more?

It depends on which one I was doing last. Directing is a rush and such an important responsibility, and I love it. I also love writing, except when I’m actually doing the writing. Then, I would rather be doing pretty much anything else. But I suppose this is part of the process. Producing is great because I love making things happen. I love bringing people together and leading a team of passionate people.

The two leads, Briza Covarrubias and Allee-Sutton Hethcoat have great chemistry on-screen. Were they ever encouraged to adlib and have fun while filming, or did they stick to the script?

I agree they do! Both were so much fun to work with, and we have amazing memories from filming. A lot of intentionality goes into the script, and with this story, so many things connect, even just casual phrases from the characters, so for the most part, we stuck to the script.

Tell me more about the film’s villain, played brilliantly by Micah Fitzgerald. How did you discover him, and at what moment did you feel he would be best suited for the role of Carl? 

We had hundreds of submissions for Carl and Micah stood out because of his look and incredible voice. Carl’s character is capable of doing some extreme and awful things, and Micah has that fire in his eyes that made me think, “Yeah… he could do that.” But it all starts with the voice, and I love what Micah brought to the sound of Carl. He has experience doing voice-over work as well as having done a couple of Western things before, including an Apple commercial with Damien Chazelle, so I knew he would bring great energy to the character.

How long did it take from creating the story to completing the film The Stolen Valley?

About 2 years from writing into the Premiere at the Nashville Film Festival (where I’m from). It took another 1.5 years after that to go through a few more festivals and secure distribution. 

Tell us more about the themes and the main message of this film- why are you passionate about these messages?

For me, the film is about redemption. I am passionate about telling stories that depict death and renewal, a process that is everywhere. Stories that are well told can share hope and love with the world. A line is spoken in the film, and a quote that I love: “The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better.” I think that how American Settlers engaged with Native Americans is awful in many cases. I think the message of finding a way to “practice the better” is so important. The film is beautiful because we can look at the characters in the movie, and we can see how they chose to practice the better. Whether we agree that they did or not, it has already started a conversation in our own subconscious about that goal. Meanwhile, we have participated in a microcosm of the greater story that is happening all around us. 

What was your favourite moment while making the film?

After the premiere of the film one of the Diné (Navajo) elders told me that being a part of this film was one of the greatest things that has ever happened to him in his life. He grew up on the reservation and still lives there today with his family. For him and his family to be so proud of the film and so touched by the whole experience is something I will never forget.

While making The Stolen Valley, what was your biggest challenge or fear?

The challenge was finishing it well. Making a movie is a long and difficult process, and this one had lots of challenges, especially filming in a remote location with a small team. One fear that comes to mind is how would the cultures represented on screen react to seeing the film when it was all done? It was a huge relief and honour when so many Diné and Latinos told me they were proud of the film and that they had fun watching it!

Do you have any upcoming projects that you can reveal?  Would you like to continue making films in the thriller genre?

I have a couple projects in development I am very excited about, and I hope to announce more about them soon. I could absolutely see myself returning to the thriller genre for the right story.

As our interview ends, why should Australian and New Zealand people watch The Stolen Valley on Digital from April 17?

Well, if you’ve read this far, you should at least give it a try! What we choose to be entertained by is very important, and I think watching The Stolen Valley is worth it. The film has action and suspense all while tackling big themes and telling a story of redemption.

11th April 2024
Written by Peter Walkden

THANK YOU FOR VISITING!

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Several months have passed since Sanctuary City was introduced to Maggie, aka Combat Wombat (Deborah Mailman), and her sidekick Sweetie (Ed Oxenbould). Thanks to the latest technology developed by tech genius Lenny (David Wenham), the people within the city can now...

Weekend at Bernie’s (1989)

Two best friends, Larry (Andrew McCarthy) and Richard (Jonathan Silverman), work at an insurance company and are doing everything possible to receive a promotion. Each day, they dream of earning more money and living a life of luxury, even more so when they see their...

The Mountain (1956)

When a large plane crashes just below the summit of Bald Mountain, rescue parties are formed to climb to the disaster. The aircraft was on a routine flight from Calcutta to Paris when something unexpected caused the flight to crash. Each moment means less possibility...

This Is Me…Now: A Love Story (2024)

Prepare yourself for a one-of-a-kind journey that you won't experience anywhere else as you join Jennifer Lopez, a renowned celebrity artist and actress. Through song, dance, story and spectacular picture, she takes you on a tour of her mind, heart, and soul, guiding...

Subtraction (2022)

Farzaneh (Taraneh Alidoosti) is a driving instructor. During a lesson where she tries to teach someone who is completely ignorant and careless about basic driving rules, she sees something unusual far away outside the car window. From a distance, she can see her...

Inspector Sun and the Curse of the Black Widow (2022)

The film is set in Shanghai in 1934 and follows the story of Inspector Sun (played by Ronny Chieng), a brilliant and confident huntsman spider. Inspector Sun is known for working alone, and when we meet him, he has been tasked with solving the ultimate unsolved case -...

Riceboy Sleeps (2022)

Found on a cold winter’s evening as a baby wrapped in a blanket, no one knew where So-young was from. As she grew up, she bounced around from one orphanage to the next before packing her bags when she got older and leaving to live in a big city. So-young hoped for...

Interview: Mark Leonard Winter / The Rooster (2023)

Walkden Entertainment (aka Peter Walkden) had the honour and pleasure of chatting with Mark Leonard Winter, director and writer of The Rooster (2023), which is Available in Australian Cinemas from February 22nd. When the body of his oldest friend is found buried in a...

The Rooster (2023)

Dan (Phoenix Raei) is a police officer working within a small community. Life presents many challenges and struggles for Dan, and he finds himself walking around in what feels like a real-life nightmare. Pushing him even further over the edge is the discovery of a...

The Jester (2023)

One evening, a man named John (Matt Servitto) walks around alone in a small community. While walking, it's evident that something, or perhaps someone, is following him from a distance. John also appears to have strange and unexplainable visions of a little girl. The...

Dario Argento Panico (2023)

Introducing a documentary focused on the well-known horror director, writer, producer, actor, and composer Dario Argento. Today, many public figures would say Dario is like a painter or a musician in the film style. Dario's films have always featured fantastic camera...

May December (2023)

Elizabeth (Natalie Portman) is an actress working on her newest film. To prepare for her upcoming leading role, Elizabeth has the opportunity to study the real person she will be portraying, a woman named Gracie (Julianne Moore). It's been over twenty years since...

Birth/Rebirth (2023)

Celie (Judy Reyes) is a single mother who works full-time as a nurse. At the same hospital is Dr. Rose Casper (Marin Ireland), a morgue technician who is working in the field of pathology. Even though they work at the same hospital, Celie and Dr. Rose Casper are...

Interview: Simon Emmett / Welcome to the Darkness (2023)

Walkden Entertainment (aka Peter Walkden) had the honour and pleasure of chatting with Simon Emmett, director of Welcome to the Darkness (2023), available on Digital from January 24th, thanks to Lightbulb Film Distribution. Have you been a long-term fan of The...

Anatomy of a Fall (2023)

Over the last year, a family of three consisting of Samuel (Samuel Theis), Sandra (Sandra Hüller), and their vision-impaired son, Daniel (Milo Machado Graner), have been living in an isolated location in the mountains. The film opens with Sandra attempting to share a...

Interview: Josh Forbes / Destroy All Neighbors (2024)

Walkden Entertainment (aka Peter Walkden) enjoyed chatting with Josh Forbes, director of Destroy All Neighbors (2024), Now Available Exclusively on Shudder. How did you become connected with Destroy All Neighbors, and what was the biggest attraction to working on...

Welcome to the Darkness (2023)

It's incredible to think of it now, but in 2002, The Darkness was an unsigned band. By 2004, its key members- Justin Hawkins, his brother Dan Hawkins, Frankie Poullain and the original drummer Ed Graham- had sold over a million records. But in 2006, something...

The Iron Claw (2023)

Based on a true story set in the early 1980s, The Iron Claw follows the Von Erich brothers and their journey within the world of professional wrestling. Firstly, we are taken back in time to glimpse wrestling icon Fritz Von Erich (Holt McCallany), delivering a final...

The Jungle Bunch: World Tour (2023)

The Jungle Bunch is a group of animals who, when called upon, will help and save the day. Whether it's another animal in need of urgent help or an area in the jungle that requires their attention, their goal and desire is to help maintain peace and harmony. When one...

The Canterville Ghost (2023)

In the late 1800s, there's a wild storm during the night right at bedtime for Lord Monroe (Bill Lobley), the proud owner of a stunningly large manor house in Canterville Chase, England. However, before going to bed with his teddy bear, Lord Monroe encounters something...

Career Opportunities (1991)

Jim (Frank Whaley) isn't the brightest bloke in the community. He struggles to hold a job, still lives with his parents, continually lies to everyone around him, and has failed to discover his true purpose as an adult. When Jim loses his job at an animal shelter, his...

Destroy All Neighbors (2024)

William Brown (Jonah Ray) is a passionate rock musician and composer with one major issue: he's unable to create the perfect song to take him further. When William isn't working on his music or spending time with his partner, he works at a recording studio as an...

The Holdovers (2023)

Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti) is a teacher at a prep school located in New England during the 1970s. Paul is a firm, strict, and extremely cranky teacher and is disliked by students and co-workers alike. As school breaks up for another year over Christmas, many students...

Stargate (1994)

In 1928 Giza, Egypt, an incredible, large artifact is discovered by a group of archaeologists. We then jump to the present day and are introduced to Dr. Daniel Jackson (James Spader), an archaeologist knowledgeable about ancient Egypt, including translating the...

The Man in Half Moon Street (1945)

Who was Julian Karell, and where did he come from? What manner of man was he? For some, he was a fine, incredibly courageous scientist who lost track of truth. Another man claims that Karell was a cold-blooded murderer and a remarkable criminal. Lastly, we hear from a...

Kane (2023)

The film opens with a game of chess being played by two mysterious men and a voiceover letting us know who they are: Abe (Jeremy Lindsay Taylor) and Frankie (Nathan Phillips). Abe is an old-school gangster who has dissociative identity disorder, meaning there are...

Top Rated Films of 2023

You can agree that 2023 was another outstanding year for cinema. Below is a list of my favourites and, once again, my top ten titles. Trust me when I say it: it was a challenge to narrow it down to number one. On behalf of my family and myself, I would like to take...

Anyone But You (2023)

It all begins when Bea (Sydney Sweeney) rushes into a local cafe, hoping to use the toilet. The cafe staff are not helpful, but Bea is rescued by a nearby knight in shining armour, Ben (Glen Powell). Regardless of a few funny and awkward moments between Bea and Ben,...

Ferrari (2023)

Set in 1957, Enzo Ferrari (Adam Driver) is an ex-race car driver and the current owner of a well-known Italian car company. However, Ferrari is currently in hot water due to the lack of sales. Enzo's wife, Laura (Penélope Cruz), also works with him as a business...

Dream Scenario (2023)

Paul (Nicolas Cage) is a biology professor with a wife and two teenage daughters. There are multiple challenges for Paul, including trying to fulfil his long-term dreams of writing and publishing a book. Many around Paul live a life of success and wealth, but for...

The Shift (2023)

While sitting at a bar and drinking alone, Kevin (Kristoffer Polaha) meets his true love, Molly (Elizabeth Tabish). Instantly, Kevin is smitten by her to the point he is willing to make significant changes in his life, such as taking a deeper step into church and...

The Boys in the Boat (2023)

In the 1930s, Joe (Callum Turner) is studying to become an engineer at university. Financially, he is struggling to make ends meet as he pays off school fees. Unsuccessful at finding a job, he is sleeping in his car each night. Joe hears of a paying job for the...

Coup de Chance (2023)

When Fanny (Lou de Laâge) walks along a busy street, she soon hears her name being called out from afar. A man approaches her, claiming to know her from high school. At first, Fanny is surprised but soon learns the man is Alain (Niels Schneider). Once upon a time,...

Wonka (2023)

After seven years of living on the ocean, Willy Wonka (Timothée Chalamet) has decided to say farewell to the sea and start afresh in a city over the horizon. Willy Wonka is a skilled magician and chocolate maker with determined dreams of opening a brand-new chocolate...

Merry Little Batman (2023)

It's the Christmas season in Wayne Manor, and the only thing that six-year-old Damian Wayne (Yonas Kibreab) wants is to fight crime with his father, Batman, aka Bruce Wayne (Luke Wilson). On Christmas Eve, Bruce decides to give Damian his present early. Damian eagerly...

Wish (2023)

When he and his family are attacked, Magnifico (Chris Pine) decides to start afresh somewhere safe. Travelling far, far away, Magnifico and his wife find an island where they can begin a new life, welcoming others to join them and live in harmony. In time, a new...