Like a villain in a horror movie, Daniel Emerson’s film “Silent Breath” is a project that just wouldn’t die.
It started with a 100-word story for a creative writing class at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Baraboo Sauk County. Emerson then reworked it as a one-act play. Now it’s a short film.
“It’s amazing how long it takes from inspiration to finalization,” he said. “It was just a fascinating process.”
“Silent Breath” premiered on campus Feb. 22. Now its producer is pitching the piece to film festivals around the country.
The 20-minute horror flick centers on a kid facing demons. As he began writing the piece a year and a half ago, Emerson found himself tormented by writer’s block. But the one-paragraph story led to a play script Emerson pitched 163 times to competitions, playhouses and producers.
“They tell you, ‘Every time you get told ‘no,’ you’re closer to a yes,’” he said.
Although he wrote “Silent Breath” for the stage, Emerson was encouraged to pitch it as a short film. Independent production companies showed immediate interest, with HMF Productions buying the script and adapting it for the screen. Filming began nearly a year ago in North Carolina, with actors and cinematographers volunteering their time and talents.
The film premiered with two screenings on campus last month, and will be featured in a North Carolina horror film festival in May. HMF Productions is working to enter “Silent Breath” in 20 more festivals.
UW-Baraboo instructor Kelly Dwyer stoked a passion — and talent — for writing Emerson didn’t know he had. He’s had two short plays produced and has founded a company — Something From Nothing — that markets his comic books and photography.
“I was inspired,” he said. “I have a purpose now because of writing.”
Dwyer said Emerson “has a huge imagination and an even bigger heart. The young students look up to him and admire him, and Dan in turn is always ready to read their work and offer encouragement and advice.”
Although the independent film’s budget was small, its goals are not. “I wanted to change and challenge boundaries,” Emerson said. “We wanted to do something big and bold.”
He hopes more festivals will feature the film and give him a chance to win awards for his script. But he’ll settle for one day making enough money writing to live on.
“This is the fanciest resume I’ve ever had,” Emerson said of the movie. “This film did what I wanted it to do. It started conversations.”