There are many more talented actors, writers, and directors than Hollywood has room for. Ridge Runners is proof of that. The first feature film for screenwriter Austin Lott and director Hunter West is an indie crime drama which is a standout on multiple levels. The Kickstarter financed film had its west coast premiere at last month’s International Family Film Festival, which took place at the historic Raleigh Studios in Hollywood. Ridge Runners brings realism to an overdone genre, while handling a potentially salacious subject in a serious and dignified manner. The result is a drama that grabs your attention and makes you think.
Another Cop Story
The genre is police procedural. The police officers involved investigate the disappearance of a twelve-year-old girl who has been abducted by sex traffickers.
Who hasn’t seen CSI: Fill-in-name-of-city more times than they will admit. We can almost predict how the investigation will go and who the bad guy will be just as easily as on Scooby-Doo. I won’t spoil it for you, but the producers of Ridge Runners found out that the story they tell is way more realistic than you’ll see “Wednesdays at 10 on CBS.”
They had help making the film from local police, filming in police facilities, cells and interrogation rooms. The film has become a favorite of law enforcement. When the film screened at the Fayetteville Film Festival, festival organizers sponsored a law enforcement night when officers could show their badges for free admission.
We hear about missing persons on the nightly news all the time. Part of the mission the filmmakers set for themselves was to tell the story in a way which focuses people’s attention on the sex trafficking epidemic going on in the country today.
According to the makers of Ridge Runners, over 60,000 people are enslaved in the United States and twenty percent are children. This is part of a larger issue of modern slavery, which was explored in the film The Return, which showed at the Anthem Film Festival this summer.
The story in Ridge Runners takes place in a small town in the South and centers around detective Rachel Willow, played by Jennica Schwartzman (All My Children, Before the Lights Come Up), also a producer on the project. Willow does not suspect the true nature of the crime at first and neither does anyone else. It’s one of those crimes “that doesn’t happen here.” Her personal journey, questioning the importance of her career in law enforcement, and the town’s realization that evil can arise anywhere, create an intriguing tale.
The creators and crew conducted a question and answer session with the film festival audience after the screening. It was clear to me that making this film was not just another job for them. There was a passionate commitment that the story about victims like the little girl in this film needed to be told and told to a large audience. They definitely connected with IFFF attendees, winning the festivals Top Applause Award, voted on by audiences.