Tennison Hopps : Directors Vision

My purpose in writing Tennison Hopps was to revisit a genre, the early American western, which was largely responsible for changing the planet and transforming cultures.

My vision and passion for this picture is to communicate the same gravitas that generations of films did for generations of moviegoers, leaving the taste of dirt in your teeth, the smell of horse manure on your nose hairs, and a renewed sense of gratitude in your heart for everything we take for granted in the 21st century. This is a hybrid film combining heavy weight, gut wrenching, blood stained performances from legends of the craft with an inherently tragic but compassionate human-story, shot in a desolate, dangerous, and wild young America. Inspired by great films like “Rabbit Proof Fence” and “The Proposition”, or “Legends of the Fall” and “The Unforgiven”, a true-to-life film is my intent and commitment. Photographing the sweat stained eyes, faces caked with the dirt of the land, landscapes from Monument Valley, NM to the 14ers of Telluride, Colorado, with a hauntingly beautiful scored picked from the nylon strings of an aged guitar, this movie will put our audience into the boots of our characters and cause them to feel today what they felt 120 years ago.

But what will truly set this film apart from others is the premise of my story: instead of the expected weathered, famous, 55 year old heroic cowboy, our leading man is a young, insecure teenager who will transform during his epic journey, not only as a character in the film, but as a representative of that quiet whisper in the dark heard by each of us searching for light at the end of a tunnel. A boy, from under the rubble of life’s hard knocks, becomes a man before our very eyes. This is not a movie for the faint of heart, yet it is, precisely… 

We start with a handsome, 16 year-old boy who, in the span of an afternoon, has his life changed forever. He finds himself completely alone in the world after the devastating loss of his family to a violent crime. Shivering in dropping temperatures on a late October evening next to a small fire, horse hobbled close by, stomach empty, and nothing but a setting sun to comfort him as night envelops his existence, he must find the strength not only to stay alive, but to find and save the life of the only family he has left, his brother and best friend Spencer (10) who’s been kidnapped. What does it feel like to be utterly alone in the world… at 16? This is my mission, to communicate deep desperation: the sounds of an inhospitable landscape, a shuddering wind through the trees, and the piercing ring of silence that screams at one’s soul of life’s most assured truth… it’s fragility.

By getting to this deep, dark, real place with our beloved Tennison, we will have marked a rock bottom starting point on a young man’s journey through life. From this point on, it would seem things can only improve, save for the beating at dawn with the butt of a riffle while your horse and last belongings on earth are stolen before your blood-shot eyes. The nature of his journey is full of obvious challenges on route from the plains of New Mexico into the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, in 1889, on horseback… but the hope of help is a compelling force.

Tennison Hopps explores relationships between the unlikeliest of characters that will be relied upon for survival. It’s a movie that will create anxiety, anger, fear, sympathy, a few laughs along the way, and most likely a tear of happiness after a devastatingly enduring story of redemption and hope finally surfaces from the dust of a lonely, beaten trail under the shoes of tired horses carrying home the body of a loved one.