Hollow in the Land director Scooter Corkle gives Castlegar its close-up

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      By the time it reaches the big screen, any movie will have weathered years of preparation, anxiety, argument, compromise, and heartbreak.

      “That’s the success of making a feature: that you actually made a feature,” says Scooter Corkle, in a call to the Georgia Straight. “That’s kind of it. I don’t think being a filmmaker means that you’re an auteur. Somebody like David Fincher or PTA [Paul Thomas Anderson], they’re not auteurs because they’re just good visionaries. They’re auteurs because they’re great at the politics of it all.”

      If its very appearance as a finished product can be seen as a small miracle, then the unduly modest Corkle has scored a doubly impressive achievement with Hollow in the Land, opening Friday (January 26).

      After a decade or so in the trenches of the local film industry—including a gig as DOP on 2014’s agreeably scuzzy Bloody Knuckles—Corkle has managed to put a remarkably strong personal stamp on his feature-length debut as a writer-director. With the dramatic thriller’s action set against a backdrop of ice rinks, pulp mills, and pit parties, Hollow in the Land benefits hugely from the young filmmaker’s evocative depiction of his hometown of Castlegar, B.C.

      “Performances, casting, look and feel, those are the things I knew I had control over,” he says. “And those I feel like we nailed.”

      Glee’s Dianna Agron stars as Alison, morphing with an impressive absence of vanity from TV goddess to dumpy lumbercoat-wearing small-town lesbian with fried hair. (“We had to work those roots every morning,” Corkle notes.) When she sets out to investigate a murder that may or may not have been committed by her little brother (Jared Abrahamson), Alison is handicapped by an obstructive police force and a few locals who are no less hostile.

      “The big thing that I wanted to convey about small towns is the amount of people that know each other and how insular a community it is,” Corkle says, with a chuckle. “The idea that Alison’s girlfriend is also her brother’s boyfriend’s mom—it’s such a quintessentially small-town thing.”

      As was the hospitality extended by Castlegar to his cast and crew, adds Corkle, with Agron and her husband, Mumford and Sons guitarist Winston Marshall, evidently having had a blast out in the Kootenays. While he was off “fishing, shooting guns, and dirt-biking with the locals”, she was motoring around like a maniac on one of the ATVs that make it into the film via a key action sequence. “She was just fucking foot down,” he says, admiringly. “Just flying.”

      An authentic feel for location aside, Corkle’s sensibility otherwise enters Hollow through its particularly strong female characters, who include, besides Alison, a couple of gun-toting ladies tending a grow-op hidden in the mountains. The director puts this down to the influence of his mother, who gets a nice cameo as a nurse in the film’s final minutes.

      “This movie is pretty much dedicated to her because she was such a strong woman in my life,” he says, inadvertently revealing, perhaps, why this 35-year-old Vancouverite is better at “the politics of it all” than he might realize. “She was so vehemently against being negative.”