If you happened to be reading The Hollywood Reporter on Friday, you know the next step for Len Britton, who unsuccessfully challenged Sen. Patrick Leahy in last November's election. He's hitting the slopes — for a movie.
Britton (pictured, right) — who got national attention during the campaign with his snarky Internet ads — has cowritten the screenplay for a skiing-themed drama called Woodchucks. He'll produce it with business partner and former campaign spokesman Bradford Broyles (left). A relatively big name in Hollywood — Ron Underwood, who helmed City Slickers and Tremors — has signed on to direct.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, "The dramatic comedy follows a Vermont ski team as it tries to prevent a corporate resort developer from wrecking their local mountain. Principal photography is scheduled to begin at the top of next ski season on location in Vermont."
Wait a second. A feature film shot in Vermont that's not a micro-budget indie?
That hasn't happened in a while. With no tax incentives for film production, and a film commission that's soon to be absorbed into a general creative economy office, the state hasn't made Hollywood outreach a big priority.
In a phone interview on Sunday, Broyles said a Vermont shoot for Woodchucks isn't a done deal. But it is what he, Britton and cowriter Rick Parks — like former ski coach Britton, a native Vermonter — would prefer.
"The whole thing was written with Vermont in mind," Broyles said. "It's a Vermont story, a New England story. We want to be able to film it here, but there's a lot of things that need to happen."
Vermont Film Commission executive director Joe Bookchin has been "supportive," Broyles said, but "there's challenges in Vermont; we don't have the film incentives you have in other states."
The producers are also talking with resort representatives. "We're looking for the ideal place to film," Broyles said. "There's an opportunity for a Vermont mountain to be essentially the host mountain for the production." The movie, he said, could be a "marketing opportunity, not just for the mountain but for the state of Vermont. We're going to create a postcard showing how beautiful it is here."
Vermont has hosted plenty of Warren Miller-type film shoots, but Woodchucks, Broyles emphasized, isn't one of those. It's also not a ski-bunny farce like Hot Dog ... the Movie (1984) or the '80s portions of Hot Tub Time Machine.
So, no skin-tight DayGlo outfits? Probably not. "Think Hoosiers on skis," said Broyles, referring to the 1986 film about an underdog high school basketball team. ("Hoosier," of course, is to Indiana what "woodchuck" is here — a humorous nickname for natives that some outsiders use as a slur.)
The aim, Broyles said, is a sports film in the vein of 1969's Downhill Racer, starring Robert Redford, often cited the best ski drama ever made. Action will be key: "We're going to show what it's like to go 90 miles per hour on a pair of skis, which hasn't been done before."
Broyles said the team has started meeting with actors who may appear in the "multimillion-dollar production," which will do its location shooting over four to six weeks next winter.
Will it happen here? Vermont is "a tough place to shoot," Broyles said. "But we think there's enough good will in the state that we'll be able to make up the difference with the backing of the ski industry."
Will Vermont play itself, or be impersonated by a snowy mountain somewhere else? Stay tuned.