Beyond the Shadows: A Ghost Story With a Social Conscious
What happens when a group of phony ghost hunters stumble upon some real ghosts? The answer can be found in Beyond the Shadows, a new film by auteur David Gustafson. The low budget film, which touches upon themes of Native American genocide, is now streaming at You Tube.
“I am part Alaskan Native,” Gustafson tells BAS. “And I’ve always been into history of all kinds. When I was researching Native American genocide, I came across so many really terrible and sad stories, and I wanted to incorporate that into the movie. Both of our next two scripts have Native American inspirations. Our next project is going to be based on the Highway of Tears murders up in Canada, So hopefully we’ll get the chance to use some Indigenous acting talent.”
The name Gustafson appears in the film’s credits quite a few times. The director’s brother, Jacob Royce Gustafson, was the director of photography for Beyond the Shadows. Jacob also produced Shadows, as well as High Note, Gustafson’s previous film. Gustafson’s sister Jenny did wardrobe and casting for both films. His other sister Amy was the co-editor on both films. Gustafson’s wife Lindsay acted in both films. Two of his kids were seen as ghosts in Beyond the Shadows.
“As close as we got with the actors and actresses filming High Note, it became like a family,” Gustafson said. “I wrote the majority of roles with someone in mind. And a handful of actors from our first film wanted to be a part of Beyond the Shadows.”
Beyond the Shadows tells a simple story. Tyler Roy Roberts stars as Drexler Faust, host of the titular TV show, an investigative paranormal series in which Faust and his colleagues uncover ghosts – unknown to the public, Faust is a con artist. The series is fake. Everything is staged.
Faust and his co-host Jonathan Coxman (Sam Olive), along with their cameraman Sammy (Weston Hedon) and their producer Bryan (Derrick Woodrin) are on their way to Chetco River Lodge, a vacation spot that is supposedly haunted by the ghosts of massacred Native American spirits from the Chetco Massacre of 1853, which was an actual real life event, not a fictional massacre concocted for the movie. Joining them are three fans, two groupies and a spirit medium.
They’re also being joined by Dr. Calvin Harding (Cameron Lee Price) and Dr. Emma Bright (Stevie May), who are on to Faust’s shenanigans and are determined to expose him as a fake.
But when the bodies begin piling up, it becomes all too obvious that the ghosts are very real…….
The film transcends its low budget roots. Supported by a fine cast, some good humor and a few genuine scares, Beyond the Shadows emerges as a highly entertaining film. There’s also a discussion early on in the film about the atrocious treatment accorded to Native Americans by white settlers–Woodrin as Bryan offers a stirring monologue about how native peoples were massacred over and over again by whites who didn’t honor peace treaties. This scene serves as a stark reminder of the gross injustices which were perpetrated when the USA was a younger country.
Gustafson hopes that people will check out his film see the great work done by his actors.
“We have such an amazing cast,” he said. “And hopefully a few people get the itch to do some research on their own of the terrible treatment of indigenous peoples, which still happens today.”
But the treatment of Native American wasn’t the only inspiration for making the film.
“I have always loved paranormal movies and shows,” Gustafson said. “And I knew what kind of talent was available in the Pacific Northwest. We had an enormous cast in High Note. I wanted to tighten that up a little and give each character their moment to shine.”
The film was shot on location in Washington State.
“We financed through a crowd funding on Seed and Spark,” said Gustafson. “That is run by the Duplass brothers, who also got their start in indie film. We used that for both films, but it was pretty hard work. You have to spend a lot of time reaching out to people on social media to get enough likes and money. We are hoping to find a financing partner for the Highway of Tears project. But with all the chaos of the pandemic, we have no problem grinding out another super low budget movie if financing is hard to find.”
Gustafson’s inspiration to make films is simple.
“I love films,” he said. “Especially weird films. Please check out Beyond the Shadows on You Tube. And if you’re in the mood for a druggie/dramedy/indie/musical, please check out High Note on Tubi TV.