After killing her abusive husband, an affluent housewife is forced on the run. But when her strategic plan for vindication crumbles from the start, her fight for freedom turns into a fight for survival.
Late one winter evening in a quiet upper class Philadelphia neighborhood, Jules Novak sets into motion a plan to kill her abusive, alcoholic husband. But as she stages the crime scene as a hostile break in, her brother-in-law stumbles upon the murder, causing her plan to quickly collapses from the start. Now fleeing to the rural mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Jules struggles with the morality of what she knows must be done with her innocent prisoner. As her fight for vengeance becomes an unpredictable fight for survival, Jules is faced with the question: how far will she go for vindication?
We created a short film, Beset Within, based on the premise of A Forest Dark as a proof-of-concept. In the short, we follow the the main character (Jules) as she confronts a man in need of a ride home. We soon learn that he has different intentions… But so does Jules.
Beset Within runs 20 minutes long, and is shot entirely in one take. This direction was chosen specifically to engage the audience as a character, forcing them to follow the increasingly tense scene - whether they want to or not. A Forest Dark will be similar in tone and style with its cinéma-vérité-style cinematography. However, the project will not be shot in one take as it doesn’t aid in the overall story of the film as the one take did for Beset Within.
Please view the short film below.
Jules Novak (early 40’s) (LEAD)
The wife of successful defense lawyer, William Novak, Jules lived a comfortable life - at least, that’s how it seemed from the outside. For years Jules was the unfortunate outlet for William’s drunken violence. Divorce was no option; William was unstoppable in court, and she knew he wouldn’t let her go without a fight. Feeling imprisoned by the monster she was forced to live with, Jules grew jaded, morose, and reclusive. And finding out she was pregnant made things feel almost worse. She’d always wanted kids, but she now worried what would happen to a child in this home. Her fears were realized during an altercation with her husband late in her pregnancy. In a drunken rage, William pushed Jules down the stairs, forcing her into an early labor, where she ultimately lost the baby. Now feeling completely wrecked and separated from any emotion from William, Jules spent months planning the death of her husband, deciding that if he couldn’t face atonement in life, she’d make him in death.
In A Forest Dark, Jules fights with the belief that she’s completely justified in what she’s done, even if no one would agree. But with her husband’s brother, Brian, as her unexpected prisoner, Jule’s struggles to find where the line between corruption and redemption truly lies.
Brian Novak (late 30’s) (LEAD)
William’s younger brother, Brian, shares his brother’s arrogance and belief that he has something to prove. But Brian was always living in his brother’s shadow. Now a cardiologist at one of Philadelphia’s prestigious hospitals, Brian lives a simple and mundane life. And deep down inside, he’s always felt he deserved more.
In A Forest Dark, Brian spends the film in physical and emotional turmoil with his captor. He knows that Jules may be justified in what she did to his brother, but that won’t stop him from making his escape, no matter the cost.
Officer Cooper (40’s) (SUPPORTING)
Cooper is a small town police officer who grew up in Northeastern Pennsylvania, and never found a reason to leave. He’s a true local, through and through.
In A Forest Dark, Cooper meets Jules early on her journey while off-duty in a local bar. He finds her surprisingly engaging and attractive, a stark contrast to other women in the small town. Even though Jules cuts their encounter short, their paths are destined to cross again - but it might not be as friendly.
Duncan (70’s/80’s) (SUPPORTING)
A veteran of the Vietnam War, Duncan lives by himself in the rural forest of the Pocono Mountains. He is sincere and friendly, but his age and rough past have made him sharp and quick-witted.
In A Forest Dark, Duncan, unaware of Jules’ dark deeds, comes to her aid when her car breaks down. But he’s seen enough in life to know that she has secrets, whether she’s willing to tell him or not.
Greyson (40’s) (SUPPORTING)
Greyson is a local in the small town that Jules stops in.
In A Forest Dark, Greyson is in need of a ride home after his car breaks down. He asks Jules for help, offering to pay her back somehow. Under secular circumstances, Jules is forced to agree. But neither character trusts each other.
A Forest Dark is a drama thriller with a strong female lead, set during early winter in the quiet woodlands of Northeastern Pennsylvania. The subject matter is shadowy and desolate, reminiscent of works like David Fincher’s Gone Girl, Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners, and the Coen Brothers’ No Country for Old Men and Blood Simple.
With director Nico Giampietro’s experience in documentary work, the film will be shot with conventions of cinéma vérité in mind, leaning heavily on practical and natural light and employing nuanced handheld cinematography, similar in style to Derek Cianfrance’s Place Beyond The Pines, and Jean-Marc Vallée’s Dallas Buyer’s Club. Inspired by classic auteur filmmakers like John Cassavetes, The actors will lead the action of the cameras, instead of the other way around. Not only will this style aid our aesthetic, but it will trim production budget and schedule, sparing extensive camera and lighting rigging logistics on location.
Rhythm and Pacing
With the main character, Jules, on the run, A Forest Dark keeps its pace moving and its audience constantly guessing, and second-guessing, what will happen next. But despite its dark nature, A Forest Dark takes time to carefully explore the human element in the characters, giving the audience moments to relate and understand the motivations and choices made by the characters.
A Forest Dark explores the blurred line between right versus wrong, and that reality rarely is simply good versus evil. The film also explores the idea of society’s views toward woman and stereotypes in today’s culture. Having a female lead is vital to the story, as many of the male characters in the film, as well as the audience, will mistakenly predict Jules’ next move. And the film shows that no matter the gender, everyone must realization that even if you find your redemption, you still have to face your demons.