This film competed in
ReelAbilities Minneapolis-St. Paul Disabilities Film Festival Showcase
Director(s): Dusty Thune
UNDERLAND isn’t just a film project, it is a movement, an experience, possibly even a paradigm shift for those open to its message. In a break from the Hollywood norm, UNDERLAND is filmed with all character roles filled by people with disabilities. Its screenplay was developed around each actor’s individual characteristics, likes, dislikes, and mannerisms. UNDERLAND is an all-original film series developed as a voice to spread awareness about topics and taboos facing the world of people with disabilities over the last 100 years, as well as a vehicle to fulfill the ever expanding need for services and programs that teach job skills, self-advocacy, social skills, and the ARTS. The stories reveal the real challenges and experiences of the cast and crew as they navigate life in a chaotic world. Dusty Thune, the director/writer/costume designer/prop master of the film, has been with the Highland Friendship Club since its beginning 13 years ago. His relentless ambition and drive to empower young adults with and without disabilities is evident in the elaborate costumes and rich character design that brings UNDERLAND to a level far above anything being produced outside of Hollywood. “I didn’t want to just throw a bunch of cheap costumes on everyone and call it a day. They may have signed up for the Friendship Club’s Movie Magic program to experience the lights, glamour, and fun of the big screen in the hopes of having a cute little DVD to hand out over the holidays, but anyone in the film business knows that isn’t how it really works. As a DCD Transition teacher, my job is to train individuals with significant special needs job skills, self-advocacy skills, social interaction skills, and life skills. Sugar coating real-life situations and spoon-feeding glitter to a population that needs to learn how to stand up for themselves when funding sources are constantly drying up is a disservice to them, as well as to people with special needs as a whole. Our actors sweat, they get dirty, they get bug bites and rashes from plants, and deal with downtime and moments of mass hysteria with learned ease. The grit you see on the screen isn’t special FX, they earned it and show it off as a badge of honor. They are the real deal and I am humbled by their dedication to what was first thought of as too ambitious to get off the ground. On the first day of filming we shot an arrow at the sun. It has taken us higher than we ever thought possible, and it just keeps on rising.” "UNDERLAND" takes us along for the journey of a young girl who is thrust into a dystopian parallel world where she is forced to make a choice that will alter her future forever, but not before befriending the inhabitants of Underland and helping them on their quest for freedom from exile. In the first episode, our heroin Kora has been captured by her brother Lucian, an Elder charged by the ruling Upland Society with keeping order in Underland - a place where people with disabilities, free thinkers, and those who refuse to live/act within the guidelines set by Upland are sent to live. UNDERLAND was filmed with all character roles filled by people with disabilities. Its screenplay was developed around each actor’s individual characteristics, likes, dislikes, and mannerisms. UNDERLAND is an all original film developed for the purpose of spreading awareness about topics and taboos facing the world of people with disabilities over the last 100 years. UNDERLAND is a 3 year project, filmed over 11 weeks (1 day a week for 2 hours) during the summer, filmed mostly outside at the mercy of the elements, filmed with a mostly volunteer crew composed of local film makers and artists, with a barebones budget around 8K. “UNDERLAND Episode II: The Rise of Grout” is a continuation of the story. In this episode, we follow the journey of the making of a bully from start to finish. Elders are charged by the ruling Upland Society with keeping order in Underland - a place where people with disabilities, free thinkers, and those who refuse to live/act within the guidelines set by Upland are sent to live. UNDERLAND Episode III: Beyond the Rift This episode is about what would happen if the marginalized people of the world came face to face with their idealized self. Imagine if you will, a you that hasn't been subjected to oppression, or forced to live by the rules of a society that didn't have you or your needs in their best interests. Would you be as great as you think you would be? Would you be just like everyone else who has pushed you down throughout the years? At some point, each of us has to make the conscious decision to accept who we are and the way we came to be who we are. Unless we make the effort to rise up and be better ourselves, we will stay in the shadows of Underland. Marginalized, labeled, sorted, and masked by indifference. You want to be someone else? You want to live in someone else's shoes and see things through their eyes? Fine, but you will lose what it is that makes you who you are. You will lose that seed, that hunger that makes you want to be more. The grass isn't always greener. Sometimes the only reason it has any color at all is because it is so full of low expectations, fertilizer for the poor. This summer we will continue to take on some major challenges that face people with special needs in their daily lives. Episode III will tie everything together from the first two episodes with the same drama and artistic flare, but with the addition a detail oriented co-writer by the name of Gabe Steinberg. Something new this year is the introduction of our characters to our modern world! Underlings will be invading downtown Saint Paul in their search for answers to life’s biggest questions. If you would like to help wrangle Underlings and you are up to date on your shots please let Katessa know. As always, there will be times of mass chaos and confusion. Try to take them in stride. It is, after all, a film set and it is considered somewhat normal ? Writing a film script that includes 24+ actors with speaking parts, 10+ “doubled” characters including costume and make-up changes, including enough back story to fill plot holes left from time restraints, writing original scores & song lyrics, working on borrowed equipment, being at the mercy of weather… and mosquitoes, budget woes, volunteer no-shows, transportation issues, wardrobe malfunctions, and last but not least the Saint Paul permit office is/has/will be a challenge. With your love, support, and patience we will have another successful filming season and be able to see the fruits of our labor on the big screen Oct.4th !!! Join us as we explore UNDERLAND Episode III: Beyond the Rift !!!!