Possum Kingdom - Virginia K Yearick (New York, New York)
On a run-down family farm in South Carolina, three generations of white men kill time in living rooms, open fields, and shallow water. The boredom that comes from the relative comfort and the slow decay around them leads them further and further into casual destruction. The film is an unscripted blend of documentary and fiction. Starring a mix of first-time actors, non-actors, and people playing alternate versions of themselves, most of the story takes place on a run down family farm, and we are introduced to members of the community that surrounds it. It may serve as both a neutral window into a way of life as well as a personal dreamland heavy with sentimentality. 2022; 91 min.
Here is my interview with Possum Kingdom Director Virginia Yearick:
Nigrin: Your amazing feature film Possum Kingdom is a mix of documentary and fiction elements that focuses on three generations of white men who kill time while on a family farm in South Carolina. Tell us why you decided to make this film.
Yearick: I’ve been making work in the area, and with some of the people who appear in the film for years. The work was mostly based in photography, then I started making video work there and the idea for the film arose out of that practice.
Nigrin: Why is your film called Possum Kingdom?
Yearick: Possum kingdom is the colloquial name for the area in rural South Carolina where it was shot, but I felt like it fit the feel of the film pretty well. Erik and Lee (the two leads) have free rein over their surroundings and they’re lazily scavenging the last bits of it.
Nigrin: How much of your film was scripted? I mean many of the scenes must have been pre-planned. Like the canoe sequence certainly had to be planned. Tell us about the process.
Yearick: The dialogue wasn’t tightly scripted because I wanted everything to feel really natural, but everything was planned to some degree. Some of it was planning to be somewhere when something was already happening, like the planting on the farm or the races at the speedway. But the people within those scenes were performing. And everything else, from family dinner to the swimming pool scenes and piano lessons were completely staged.
Nigrin: What was it like to work with non-actors?
Yearick: Erik and Lee had the most information about where we needed to go with each scene. They were a good duo because Lee (the young boy) put everyone at ease. He was excited to be making a movie, and I think that made other people take everything less seriously. Like they were playing a game with him. Erik was more responsible for guiding dialogue within each scene. He was the only person whose roll was complete fiction. It was his first-time spending time in that area and meeting everyone else in the film. Everyone was acting to a degree, but the amount of fiction varied from person to person.
Nigrin: Are there any memorable stories while you made this film or any other info about your film you would like to relay to us?
Yearick: Erik was making a film of his own about people building bmx trails in the woods while we were shooting Possum Kingdom. So, we would shoot all day and he would stay up late editing at night. It was really nice to get a sense of how he was working and have some of that bleed over into this project that we were working on together. His buddy Ty did a lot of the music for both films, and his partner Sarah did all of the color. His film is called Dirtboof, and it’s pretty easy to find.
Possum Kingdom will be playing along with the short experimental film Five, Four, Three, Two at the 2023 New Jersey International Film Festival on Sunday, June 4, 2023 – Online for 24 Hours. For more info and tickets go here.
Also, here is the 2023 New Jersey International Film Festival Filmmaker Video Q+A with Possum Kingdom Director Virginia Yearick, Lead Actor and DP Erik Doty and Festival Director Al Nigrin.