LYONS DEN PRODUCTIONS

News

15.11.02

Fracking horror feature "Unearth" in final hours of Kickstarter

Usually when we post about a film in the final stages it’s to help get them the push they need to satisfaction. That is not necessary in the case of Unearth which is the feature from John C. Lyons. See Unearth is already funded to completion and more and we should be hearing news on when production is starting. Still we wanted to inform you about the film as it brings new life into conspiracy theory, government involved horror. Fracking is a dangerous drilling into the ground that if done in the wrong place could unleash some dire consequences. Unearth looks to exploit these theories. Take a look at the details ahead including some stills from the project. We should hear more on the direction of Unearthed in the near future.

Erie Pennsylvania – Lyons Den Productions is thrilled to announce their Kickstarter campaign for “Unearth”, a feature film that’s equal parts character-driven drama and eco-horror, has surpassed its minimum funding goal in just 10 days. The project has also been recognized as a Kickstarter “Staff Pick” and will be featured as their “Film Project of the Day” on October 30th. Earlier in the month, IndieWIRE, a popular independent film website, recognized “Unearth” as their “Project of the Day” and author Chuck Palahniuk (“Fight Club”) tweeted his support.

Inspired by increasing environmental concerns ripped from today’s headlines, “Unearth” is a uniquely American horror story about two neighboring farm families whose relationships and very lives are put to the test when one of them chooses to lease their land and have it drilled for natural gas.

The Kickstarter campaign is being used raise the necessary funds for the project to go into production next year in northwestern Pennsylvania. The more funding the project receives the more resources the filmmakers will have to make a better film. Interested persons can back the project until November 5th at 10:00 AM EST through Kickstarter.

The film’s writer and director, John C. Lyons, said of these latest developments “The strong, global support for our film has been amazing. I spent my entire youth on farms and in the woods of Pennsylvania and learned the importance of the land and our relationship to our environment. This is a deeply personal story with an important message and I can’t wait to bring the script to life.”

Horror film fanatics and eco-conscious citizens alike are encouraged help make the film a reality by contributing to the project’s Kickstarter campaign: kickstarter.com/projects/johnclyons/unearth-a-feature-length-horror-film

The campaign rewards backers with everything from DVDs and original artwork to a chance to be cast in the film and attend its premiere. Lyons has been working closely with Mercyhurst University’s Quickstarter program to develop and build the campaign.


horrormoviesuncut.com

LYONS DEN PRODUCTIONS





15.10.28

Local Filmmaker John C. Lyons Readies the Ground for "Unearth"

“Find your metaphor, and you have a classic.”

That’s the message John C. Lyons received from Chuck Palahniuk when the local filmmaker reached out to the Fight Club author about his idea for the film Unearth. Lyons came to know Palahniuk after the author became a fan of Schism, Lyons’ directorial debut. Palahniuk’s response motivated Lyons to up the ante on his third feature.

The metaphor Lyons found was fracking, a drilling practice which has undergone much scrutiny, including several critical pieces in the Reader. Early in 2013, Lyons started kicking around ideas for his third film, eventually taking note of fracking through documentaries such as Gasland and Triple Divide.

“I felt that there was definitely a void for a narrative fictional story to cover the angle of how we really don’t know what we’re doing when we’re a mile under the ground,” Lyons tells me over the phone. “It’s not like we have cameras or people down there, and things can happen. Things can go wrong. What if we stir up something down there that we didn’t expect and how can that affect people?”

Unearth focuses on two neighboring farm families and the aftermath when one family leases their land to natural gas drillers. Lyons describes his script as a docudrama that eventually shifts into a crazy, gothic horror survival film. Based on the success of the film’s Kickstarter campaign, the premise intrigued plenty of potential viewers.

After filming his first two features Schism and There Are No Goodbyes with volunteer help, Lyons turned to the crowdfunding site to help him make Unearth. He set a goal of $15,000 early in October and started a campaign with the help of Mercyhurst University’s Quickstarter Program.

A very positive public response meant the campaign reached its goal in only 10 days. It was named a “Staff Pick” by Kickstarter and “Project of the Day” by independent movie news site Indiewire. In fact, funding will still be accepted until the campaign ends Nov. 5, which can help Lyons ramp up efforts on Unearth.

“At this point, the higher we go on Kickstarter, the better the movie is going to be, to be honest with you,” Lyons says. “Our past films have been all volunteer work, which is crazy. For this third film, we really want to step up and hire people for their efforts.”

Now that the film has been funded, Lyons has a lot of work ahead of him. He already has locations picked out in northwestern Pennsylvania and a small group of talented crew members, including special effects design guru “Monster Mark Kosobucki,” who just so happens to have created several cover art pieces for the Reader (including this issue’s cover). Eventually, Lyons will hold auditions for actors to join a cast that includes Jennifer Hooper, who’s performed in both of Lyons’ past films, and Ruth Thoma Andrews, a stage veteran of over 50 plays.

Lyons found his metaphor back in 2013. Now, Unearth is set to become something more than just a script, as Lyons estimates a 2017 release. With the support of the Erie community and the frightening realities of fracking serving as inspiration, Lyons is ready to create a horrifyingly good feature.


eriereader.com

LYONS DEN PRODUCTIONS





15.10.28

We are proud to announce that Lyons Den Productions' John C. Lyons won Erie Reader Best Of Erie 2015 in "Best Filmmaker" category!

Lyons Den Productions thanks Erie Reader for this recognition.


eriereader.com

LYONS DEN PRODUCTIONS





15.10.17

Interview: Unearth the Next Film of John C. Lyons

Join Forest & Cory as they sit down with filmmaker John C. Lyons to discuss his upcoming film Unearth, which is currently being crowd funded on Kickstarter.

Lyons has made films in the past, Schism and There Are No Goodbyes, both of which he funded himself. This time around he hopes to reach out to others with his vision of a bleak and paranoid social commentary on the not so secret negative effects of hydraulic fracking. He has enlisted the help of effects man "Monster" Mark Kosobucki to create the visual horrors to compliment John's psychological horrors.

Equal parts docu-drama and eco-horror, “Unearth” was inspired by increasing environmental concerns ripped from today’s headlines. The film’s writer and director, John C. Lyons, said of the project “In light of new evidence uncovered by journalists like Public Herald regarding years of cover-up by state regulators regarding water contamination caused by the Marcellus shale industry, I think now more than ever it is time for a film like “Unearth”.

Help make this interesting and terrifying films come to life! For more about the negative effects of fracking, check out the films Gasland and Triple Divide.


slaughterfilm.blogspot.com

LYONS DEN PRODUCTIONS





15.10.16

Vote for Project of the Week: Will It Be "Unearth", "As Far As The Eye Can See", "i****you", or "Frank & Zed"?

It's time to vote for this week's Project of the Week. Who will it be? Take a look at the projects in the running and select the one you'd most like to see.

The winning filmmaker will become a candidate for October Project of the Month. That winner will be in the running for Project of the Year.

The four projects up for this week's Project of the Week are listed below (with descriptions courtesy of the filmmakers). You can vote at the bottom of the page.

Unearth: When one desperate family leases their farmland to a gas company, relationships crumble and a menacing entity is revealed.

As Far As The Eye Can See: Jack Ridge is a former piano prodigy living on his family's farmland in Texas. He's living in the past, but the future is coming for him.

i****you: Four oversexed college students explore lust and the social autism that today's technology affords us; perturbed fantasies amplified by technology's erect negligence.

Frank & Zed: From Puppetcore Films, "Frank & Zed" is perhaps the world's first all-puppet monster movie packed with detail, gore, and fire-breathing puppets.

Voting will end Monday, October 19 at 11 a.m. ET.


indiewire.com

LYONS DEN PRODUCTIONS





15.10.14

We are thrilled to announce that Lyons Den Productions was named a finalist for both "Best Web Developer" and "Best Filmmaker" categories in the Erie Reader Best Of Erie 2015 awards.

Lyons Den Productions thanks Erie Reader for this recognition.


eriereader.com

LYONS DEN PRODUCTIONS





15.10.13

"Unearth": Lyons Den Productions

John C. Lyons raised more than $7,000 in 48 hours for his feature film Unearth. Since launch, the project has received a tweet from Chuck Palahniuk, recognition on Kickstarter's Recommended Film Project's list, and a host of other media attention, which can be found here: indiewire.com/article/in-unearth-a-tale-about-fracking-becomes-a-true-horror-story-20151012.


innovationcollaborators.com

LYONS DEN PRODUCTIONS





15.10.12

In "Unearth," a Tale About Fracking Becomes a True Horror Story

Here's your daily look at an indie project in development. Is this something you'd want to see?

Here's your daily dose of an indie film, web series, TV pilot, what-have-you in progress -- at the end of the week, you'll have the chance to vote for your favorite. In the meantime: Is this a project you’d want to see? Tell us in the comments.

Unearth

Logline: When one desperate family leases their farmland to a gas company relationships crumble and a menacing entity is revealed. Be wary what you reap, when your land is sown with secrets.

Elevator Pitch: Equal parts docu-drama and eco-horror, "Unearth" is a terrifying, and uniquely American story, which follows two neighboring farm families whose relationships are put to the test when one of them leases their land to a gas company and has it drilled using a controversial method know as "fracking."

In the midst of this growing tension something long dormant beneath the surface is released. First, it’s the water. Then, it’s their health. And when one of them disappears in the night, the families must join together or descend into chaos, though it may already be too late.

Production Team: John C. Lyons - Writer/Director Lyons has written, directed and produced two feature films and two short documentaries under Lyons Den Productions. His features "Schism" and "There Are No Goodbyes" have screened in festivals across the globe and have received numerous award recognition including Best Narrative Feature (Spirit Quest Film Festival), Best Actor and Best Screenplay Awards (Director’s Chair Film Festival) and Purple Heart Filmmaker Award (Zero Film Festival - Los Angeles).

Dorota Swies - Director of Photography/Producer Swies is the co-owner of Lyons Den Productions and has served as producer, director of photography and co-editor on our last two films. She has a Masters degree of Fine Arts in New Media and a strong eye as both a photographer and web design.

“Monster” Mark Kosobucki - Special FX Coordinator Kosobucki is a graduate of the Douglas Education Center for Special Makeup FX and Sculpting. Also a talented illustrator and designer, he will be designing all of the posters for this film including the ones available in our reward tiers.

Andi Wondersound - Composer Wondersound has scored each of Lyons Den Productions films. A talented illustrator in his own right, he designed the poster and props for our last feature, "There Are No Goodbyes."

Courtney Lang - Models and Props Master Lang has a Masters degree of Fine Arts from Chatham and built many of the props used in our last feature, "There Are No Goodbyes." She is returning to Pennsylvania help us construct an underground drilling and water contamination model and others props as well as create the hand-bound scripts and aged, hand-drawn maps available in our reward tiers.

*Several key crew positions are still needed for this production. With a successful Kickstarter campaign we will hire experienced crew to fill these roles.

About the Film: I spent my entire youth on farms and in the woods of Pennsylvania and learned the importance of the land and our relationship to our environment. After viewing the effects of industry on my beautiful state in documentaries like "Gasland" and "Triple Divide," and evidence regarding years of cover-up regarding water contamination caused by fracking, I was inspired to write this story.

To support the regional filmmaking community and give the story an authentic feel, I plan to shoot in Pennsylvania near the very towns I grew up. Areas faced with the difficult decisions and hardships presented in this story.

Current Status: We are fundraising with the hope of entering production in spring of 2016.


indiewire.com

LYONS DEN PRODUCTIONS





15.10.08

Local filmmaker raises Kickstarter funds for "Unearth"

Something sinister is about to be unleashed.

Or at least that’s what several horror film fans are hoping. Northwestern Pennsylvania filmmaker John C. Lyons (“Schism,” “There Are No Goodbyes”) has already attracted quite a few Kickstarter contributions for his latest eco-horror flick project, “Unearth.”

The film — centered in two farming families whose lives change when local fracking churns up unexpected consequences — currently stars Jennifer Hooper and Ruth Thoma Andrews, with other roles to be cast. The project, with a Kickstarter pledge goal of $15,000, is scheduled to go into production next year. Kickstarter contributors could receive DVDs, original artwork and even a chance to appear in the film.

Learn more about the film and how to contribute here: kickstarter.com/projects/johnclyons/unearth-a-feature-length-horror-film. The Kickstarter campaign ends Nov. 5, 10 a.m.


goerie.com

LYONS DEN PRODUCTIONS





15.10.08

Our feature film Unearth got a big shout out today from the man himself Chuck Palahniuk!

Lyons Den Productions thanks Chuck Palahniuk and Dennis Widmyer for their support.


Join Unearth campaign at kickstarter.com

LYONS DEN PRODUCTIONS





15.10.08

John C. Lyons’ New Eco-Horror Film "Unearth" Launches Kickstarter Campaign

The award-winning team at Lyons Den Productions are excited to announce their next feature film will be “Unearth”, a uniquely American horror story about the terrifying repercussions sown by shortsighted decisions, and what our children reap from our actions. This announcement comes with the launch of a Kickstarter campaign tomorrow, Tuesday October 6th, to raise the necessary funding for the project expected to go into production next year in northwestern Pennsylvania.

Equal parts docu-drama and eco-horror, “Unearth” was inspired by increasing environmental concerns ripped from today’s headlines. The film’s writer and director, John C. Lyons, said of the project “In light of new evidence uncovered by journalists like Public Herald regarding years of cover-up by state regulators regarding water contamination caused by the Marcellus shale industry, I think now more than ever it is time for a film like “Unearth”.

Jennifer Hooper, star of feature films “Schism” and “There Are No Goodbyes”, and an award-winning filmmaker herself, has snagged one of the film’s lead roles as has Ruth Thoma Andrews, a stage and screen veteran who’s appeared in over 50 plays in the past 30 years. Several lead roles have yet to be cast. Scripts are being sent to actors and agents and the filmmakers hope to hold auditions, both locally and online.

“Monster” Mark Kosobucki, a graduate of the Douglas Education Center for Special Makeup FX and Sculpting will serve as the film’s Special FX Coordinator and Graphic Designer. Andy Flatley, who has scored each of Lyons Den Productions’ films, will return to paint music to image.

Horror film fanatics and eco-conscious citizens alike can help make the film a reality by contributing to the project’s Kickstarter campaign. The campaign, which rewards backers with everything from DVDs and original Artwork to a chance to be cast in the film and attend it’s premiere. Lyons Den Productions has been working closely with Mercyhurst University’s Quickstarter program to develop and build the campaign. Unearth’s Kickstarter campaign launches Tuesday October 6th at 10:00 a.m.


crowdfundingpr.org





15.10.07

"Unearth" Kickstarter Achieves 50% Funding in Less Than 24 Hours

First, it’s the water. Then, it’s their health. And when one of them disappears in the night, the families must join together or descend into chaos, though it may already be too late.

So says the Kickstarter campaign for Unearth, a feature film that’s equal parts character-driven drama and eco-horror, which surpassed 50% funding in less than 24 hours, says Lyons Den Productions.

Kickstarter is being used to try and raise the necessary funds for the project to go into production next year in northwestern Pennsylvania. If the project does not reach its goal, the filmmakers do not receive any funding.

Inspired by increasing environmental concerns about fracking ripped from today’s headlines, “Unearth” is a uniquely American horror story about the terrifying repercussions sown by shortsighted decisions, and what our children reap from our actions.

The film’s writer and director, John C. Lyons, said of this surprise Kickstarter development, “While typically these types of funding success stories are reserved for projects directed by or starring known Hollywood names, people across the country are backing our film based on the concept, our story, and a true, indie filmmaking team of talent."

“Monster” Mark Kosobucki, a graduate of the Douglas Education Center for Special Makeup FX and Sculpting (and creator of many Reader covers) will serve as the film’s Special FX Coordinator. Horror film fanatics and eco-conscious citizens alike are encouraged help make the film by visiting Kickstarter.

The campaign rewards backers with everything from DVDs and original artwork to a chance to be cast in the film and attend its premiere.


eriereader.com





15.10.07

New Eco-Horror Film Unearth Launches Kickstarter Campaign

The award-winning team at Lyons Den Productions are excited to announce their next feature film will be "Unearth," a uniquely American Horror Story about the terrifying repercussions sown by shortsighted decisions, and what our children reap from our actions. This announcement comes with the launch of a Kickstarter campaign tomorrow, Tuesday October 6th, to raise the necessary funding for the project expected to go into production next year in northwestern Pennsylvania.

Equal parts docu-drama and eco-horror, "Unearth" was inspired by increasing environmental concerns ripped from today's headlines. The film's writer and director, John C. Lyons, said of the project, "In light of new evidence UNCOVERED by journalists like Public Herald regarding years of cover-up by state regulators regarding water contamination caused by the Marcellus shale industry, I think now more than ever it is time for a film like "Unearth."

Jennifer Hooper, star of feature films "Schism" and "There Are No Goodbyes," and an award-winning filmmaker herself, has snagged one of the film's lead roles as has Ruth Thoma Andrews, a stage and screen veteran who's appeared in over 50 plays in the past 30 years. Several lead roles have yet to be cast. Scripts are being sent to actors and agents and the filmmakers hope to hold auditions, both locally and online.

"Monster" Mark Kosobucki, a graduate of the Douglas Education Center for Special Makeup FX and Sculpting will serve as the film's Special FX Coordinator and Graphic Designer. Andy Flatley, who has scored each of Lyons Den Productions' films, will return to paint music to image.

Horror film fanatics and eco-conscious citizens alike can help make the film a reality by contributing to the project's Kickstarter campaign. The campaign, which rewards backers with everything from DVDs and original Artwork to a chance to be cast in the film and attend it's premiere. Lyons Den Productions has been working closely with Mercyhurst University's Quickstarter program to develop and build the campaign. Unearth's Kickstarter campaign launches Tuesday October 6th at 10:00 a.m.

Unearth

Tagline: Be wary what you reap, when your land is sown with secrets.

Logline: When one desperate family leases their farmland to a gas company relationships crumble and a menacing entity is revealed.


broadwayworld.com

LYONS DEN PRODUCTIONS





15.10.06

Eco-horror film marks Quickstarter’s ninth project launch

Mercyhurst University’s latest Quickstarter campaign is eyeing an ambitious fundraising goal of $15,000 for filmmaker John C. Lyons of Lyons Den Productions to commence production of his uniquely American horror story, “Unearth.”

Billed equal parts docu-drama and eco-horror, Lyons said the film reveals “the terrifying repercussions sown by shortsighted decisions and what the next generation reaps from our actions.” He intends to begin production with his wife and business partner, Dorota Swies, next year in northwestern Pennsylvania.

Mercyhurst intelligence studies professor Kristan Wheaton, who created Quickstarter as a strategy for conducting successful crowdfunding campaigns on popular online platforms like Kickstarter, and Mercyhurst students Jessika Turner and Annie Murphy are working with Lyons on his Kickstarter campaign. To date, Wheaton has managed successful Kickstarter campaigns for seven out of eight projects, and he has 18 more waiting in the wings. This marks his ninth project launch.

Funding for the latest Quickstarter initiative is through the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority’s Ignite Erie: Industry-University Business Acceleration Collaborative, led by Mercyhurst University and Penn State Behrend.

Horror film fanatics and the eco-conscious can help make the film a reality by contributing to the project’s Kickstarter campaign, Unearth: A feature-length horror film, which launched on Oct. 6. Lyons has until Nov. 5 to achieve his $15,000 goal or forfeit any funds raised.

The campaign will reward backers with everything from DVDs and original artwork to a chance to be cast in the film and attend its premiere.

“I spent my entire youth on farms and in the woods of Pennsylvania and learned the importance of the land and our relationship to our environment,” Lyons reveals on his Kickstarter page. “After viewing the effects of industry on my beautiful state in documentaries like ‘Gasland’ and ‘Triple Divide,’ and evidence regarding years of cover-up regarding water contamination caused by fracking, I was inspired to write this story.”

Lyons has written, directed and produced two feature films and two short documentaries under Lyons Den Productions. His features "Schism" and "There Are No Goodbyes" have screened in festivals across the globe and have received numerous award recognition including Best Narrative Feature (Spirit Quest Film Festival), Best Actor and Best Screenplay Awards (Director’s Chair Film Festival) and Purple Heart Filmmaker Award (Zero Film Festival - Los Angeles).

Meanwhile, through crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, Wheaton sees the potential to transform Erie into an “idea hub” by taking local entrepreneurial projects to the next level and, in some cases, morphing them into full-fledged businesses.


mercyhurst.edu





15.10.06

John C. Lyons’ "Unearth" Launches Kickstarter Campaign

Not too long ago, writer/director John C. Lyons released Schism, a brilliant independent feature that tackled the real-life horror of Alzheimer’s through the eyes of a character named Neil Woodward. It’s a film that stuck with me over the years, and it’s a shame it hasn’t received more attention. Do yourself a favor: If you love horror films grounded in reality, then rent the flick on Amazon. It deserves to be seen. Thankfully, Lyons is still out there making movies.

Like many filmmakers these days, Lyons is gathering funds for his next project via Kickstarter. He’s also promising a horror flick oozing with practical effects, which is always a good thing.

From the Press Release:

The award-winning team at Lyons Den Productions are excited to announce their next feature film will be “Unearth”, a uniquely American horror story about the terrifying repercussions sown by shortsighted decisions, and what our children reap from our actions. This announcement comes with the launch of a Kickstarter campaign tomorrow, Tuesday October 6th, to raise the necessary funding for the project expected to go into production next year in northwestern Pennsylvania.

Equal parts docu-drama and eco-horror, “Unearth” was inspired by increasing environmental concerns ripped from today’s headlines. The film’s writer and director, John C. Lyons, said of the project “In light of new evidence uncovered by journalists like Public Herald regarding years of cover-up by state regulators regarding water contamination caused by the Marcellus shale industry, I think now more than ever it is time for a film like “Unearth”.

Jennifer Hooper, star of feature films “Schism” and “There Are No Goodbyes”, and an award-winning filmmaker herself, has snagged one of the film’s lead roles as has Ruth Thoma Andrews, a stage and screen veteran who’s appeared in over 50 plays in the past 30 years. Several lead roles have yet to be cast. Scripts are being sent to actors and agents and the filmmakers hope to hold auditions, both locally and online.

“Monster” Mark Kosobucki, a graduate of the Douglas Education Center for Special Makeup FX and Sculpting will serve as the film’s Special FX Coordinator and Graphic Designer. Andy Flatley, who has scored each of Lyons Den Productions’ films, will return to paint music to image.

Want to contribute to the flick? Swing by the official Kickstarter campaign and fork over some cash. For more info about Lyons and his upcoming endeavor, head over to Facebook.


dreadcentral.com

LYONS DEN PRODUCTIONS





15.09.30

Local filmmaker John C. Lyons on his next venture, "Unearth"

Picture jungle ants as observed through the careful and analytic lens of a professional photographer. In a single acre of nearly any jungle there can be approximately 8 million ants, scurrying about the jungle floor, harvesting plants with their razor-sharp mandibles, antennae twitching. For the most part, their lives are inconsequential, but vital to the continuance of the greater good of the ecosystem. All is generally well for these often forgotten insects, but there are eerie exceptions.

One such exception are cordyscepts, a parasitic fungus that impacts the ant’s body in a manner that is equal parts surreal and disturbing. The cordyscepts infiltrate not only the organism’s body, but their mind as well.

The once busy, focused, and productive ant now ambles disorientated, clawing its way up various trees and branches in utter oblivion. If the infected ant is discovered by his colony to be infected, it’s carried far away from the established ant colony and left to fend for itself in its madness.

The cordyscept then sprouts from the ants head and grows in much the same way an antler might grow. Within three weeks, the tip of the growth will release a deadly spore. And that spore is so potent it could potentially devastate entire colonies of ants. But what do cordyscepts, an ominous fungi, have to do with filmmaker John C. Lyons? As it turns out, a lot.

I sat down with Lyons a week ago in Edinboro’s Flip Café to interview him about a new project he’s in the works of casting and creating. The faint clatter of syrupy knives and the hum of simple conversation filled the room as Lyons and I dug into our breakfasts. Dressed in a sky blue oxford and sporting thick, black-rimmed glasses, Lyons looked the part of a serious artist. His sleeves were rolled-up as if to say, “I’m here to work.” It was evident within the first two minutes of questioning, though, that work was an understatement, as the sheer drive and passion that Lyons has for his latest project was omnipresent and carried the conversation for a solid two hours.

‘Still in the family’

Lyons is a local. Raised on, as he puts it, “a farm somewhere between Albion and Edinboro,” he admits having deep roots in the local area. The farm he was raised on is still in the family; his brother lives on the land. When fracking came to Pennsylvania and began to affect foundational farmlands across the state, it was no surprise Lyons took notice and began to incubate and coddle the seed of an idea. In fact, the very farm that Lyons recalls fondly was once the target of proposed fracking wells and drilling sites.

After seeing and being moved by films such as Josh Fox’s “Gasland,” and Public Herald journalists Melissa Troutman and Joshua Pribanic’s co-directed exposé, “Triple Divide,” Lyons felt the argument these grass-roots activists were making was something he wanted to join in on. That is why, in January 2013, the pet-project he codenamed “Fracking Monsters,” came to fruition.

Pennsylvania has long been a state notorious for its lax fracking regulations. Drilling has risen sharply, with roughly 71,000 active gas wells, up from about 36,000 in 2000, according to The New York Times. This comes at an incalculable cost as our water can become contaminated by radioactivity, pets have been reported to lose their hair and millions of gallons of waste water laced with corrosive salts and carcinogens are now in massive, above-ground landfills. The threat that Lyons saw was real. In a state where the effects of the economic recession are still being felt by rural farmers, the money being offered as compensation for land leasing rights is, to most, “manna from heaven.” The efficiency of the fast-talking engineers and the persuasivenesss of pro-fracking propaganda is what helps to ease the sheepish public to their own slaughtering house.

Lyons foresaw this, and as a filmmaker, felt an obligation to remedy the lies of the fracking campaign using his own medium. Cue “Unearth.”

‘Socially driven gothic horror’

“Unearth” is the harvest from the “Fracking Monsters” seed, sown all the way back in January 2013. Permitted to read the script before meeting Lyons for breakfast, I informed him over email that I was “stunned,” and “in need of a few days to think about it.”

The movie interweaves the narratives of two neighboring families, The Lomacks and The Dinges. Both families live close to one another and have long profited from the fertile lands which they farm. When one family runs into financial turmoil, the gas monopoly’s corporate stiffs swoop into town accordingly and offer some serious cash for a piece of land. The screenplay reads seamlessly, with a true understanding of the complexity of both family and societal dynamics. The characters are so well-developed, the reader begins to feel as if they’re an extra in the script, watching passively as the chaos around them unfurls into a sinister and surreal gestalt of mayhem, which Lyons has dubbed “socially driven gothic horror.” Remember those ants I introduced at the beginning of this article? Imagine that manifesting its way into the human population. Tantalizing, no?

“Unearth” will be Lyons’ third production, a sister film to his earlier award-winning works of “Schism” (2008) and “There Are No Goodbyes” (2013), respectively. Though much of the cast has yet to be selected, actress Jennifer Hooper has been cast as Heather, a head-strong daughter in the Lomack family. Kathryn, the head of the Dinges family and patron saint of rugged-individualism will be played by Ruth Thoma Andrews.

Lyons states it was critical to develop strong female protagonists who were “focused and able to develop the connective tissues between the two families while still radiating a sense of warmth or concern.” If intricate character plotting is not your interest, that’s fine. Lyons also brought Mark Kosobucki of Dread Central Magazine on board for some gruesome special effects and we’re not talking dainty scabs and black eyes. Look up the teaser trailer on YouTube if you don’t believe me.

But Lyons seems interested in inviting the campus to share in the creation of his brainchild.

“I’m going to try to get in contact with the geology students. I’d like to build a miniature drilling rig to film the process of fracking in a controlled environment. I need students with an understanding of the geologic layers that the pipe will penetrate through,” said Lyons, polishing off his omelet and glancing up with a characteristic glimmer in his eyes.

The amount of research that went into the screenplay will surely not go unnoticed by production companies looking for their next engaging film in which to collaborate. The terminology and procedures implemented are all realistic and characteristic of the industry because they’re based on interviews, surveys, and reports produced by nonpartisan researchers.

The Public Herald, a nonprofit investigative journalism publication, funded by the public and based in Pittsburgh, has reported extensively on the damages and misery the gas industry has cast unknowing citizens into. Through collaboration with impartial sources, Lyons has concocted a moving narrative where his audience is asked to question America’s consumerist obsession and abuse of resources for short term profit.

There are foreboding elements that are sown carefully into the script, with the intent of having the audience develop an understanding for the terminology along with the unsuspecting characters of the movie. It’s a mutual learning, which makes the complexity of the business less daunting and more palatable.

‘Something smart and dark’

“Unearth” has technical kinks and casting quirks to resolve before it begins filming in the Spring of 2016, but Lyons’ vision is concise, disarming and alluring. He’s completely unconcerned with the controversy surrounding his vision, even in an area where money to silence dissenting opinions goes a long way. “It’s not a documentary, but it’s not fiction,” Lyons told me. “But I hope that the audience gets that it’s a well-informed place I’m coming from,” he concluded.

In film, there’s a quasi-derogatory category for work called “mumblecore,” which is, a genre of work where the director utilizes nonprofessional actors in improvised performances. Lyons seems to be under the impression that if his characters are portrayed via static acting — acting where the performers are unfazed by the environment they’re cast into — a Pandora’s Box of cinematic blunders will permeate the film.

“I don’t want to cater to [that,]” Lyons said laughing. “I would say it’s sophisticated horror, but that sounds too pretentious. Let’s say this. With my films I try to blend certain elements. I want it to be visually rich, so much so that the film has its own language through its cinematography. The storyline has to be a form of social commentary, as well, something smart and dark.”

Lyons asks a lot of himself and his films, but the higher the standards, the more rewarding the outcome.

Through his work Lyons is leaving his audience with the sense of being terrified and entertained in thought, fostering an uncommon reaction in a world where 21st century blockbusters make the public eye wander from works of truth. But Lyons has the artist’s vision, the kind that makes you sit back in your seat after reading a mere screenplay and think, “Stunned. I’m gonna need a few days.”

And that’s something everyone should be holding tickets to see.


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