By Carolyn Marnon – After a stressful move from New York City into their new country home, Lauren and Jerry unwind with their closest friend Megan in the dimly lit cottage. The calm only lasts so long. Megan discovers an ashen little boy in the yard, shivering and alone…or so they think. The three friends act quickly to protect this boy from a frightening man and his gang of drifters who seem intent on getting this child.
The cops won’t come, and the men don’t scare easily. It becomes utterly clear that in the country you are on your own.
The only thing that separates them from horror is a dirty pane of glass or a creaking wooden door. But how long can you keep the wolves out when their prey lies within?
The friends’ resilient city mentalities cannot stave off what lingers in the darkness, will not stop the evil at their door. How could they possibly be prepared for what’s in the woods?
The daughter of retired Wayne Police Chief John Colligan and retired Schweitzer Elementary school teacher Pat Colligan dares you to find out.
Maggie Colligan grew up in Wayne and says she’s a big fan of the City. Her father, who died 6 years ago and was a former Wayne police chief, was born and raised in Wayne “and worked his way up. By far my biggest idol in life. My grandma worked as a secretary at St. Mary’s of Wayne back in the day. My grandpa was a postal worker. My mom was a teacher at Schweitzer Elementary school and won many awards for her time as a teacher there. One of my sister’s (Katie Colligan Krimmel) worked in special education for Wayne-Westland schools; my other sister (Amy Colligan Hamilton) works in communications for the city of Canton. They both are amazing. Many of my friends and family still work as educators in Wayne-Westland schools and are a huge part of the community. What I do pales in comparison to them.”
What does she do? Maggie is a screenwriter, living her dream in New York City. She currently lives in Astoria and commutes to her job in a huge warehouse in Queens where she has a large office space and plenty of room to social distance. (A lot of the hit CBS TV-show Blue Bloods that stars Wayne Memorial graduate Gregory Jbara films across the street). She runs TV Boy, a company that specializes in hidden camera tv and reality competition shows. Have you heard of ABC’s “What Would You Do?”, Food Network’s “Worst Cooks in America” or “Beat Bobby Flay?” If you’ve seen something that had to do with hidden cameras, her company has probably had something to do with it, she says. They also recently did remote production for Rachael Ray’s 30 Minute Meals whereby they put robotic cameras in her house and had camera operators working out of a trailer in Rachael’s driveway. “We do all the quirky technical stuff.”
Maggie spent 3 years studying for a business degree at Western Michigan University before taking a daring leap and moving to San Francisco where she got a degree from San Francisco State in Screen Writing. “This is what I want to do with my life,” she said at the time.
“20/20 hindsight,” she laughs at the reference, “Let’s just say looking back, now that I am older and wiser, I probably should have finished that degree before going to study film. But I do own a company now, so something worked out.”
She was hired by TV Boy as an office manager and field coordinator 8 years ago. Last year, she was promoted to Chief Operating Officer. “It’s a really fun time to take over a business.” She says that in New York, they call Detroit the 6th borough because sometimes it’s easier to hop on a plane and fly to Detroit than it is to take the subway to the Bronx.
“What’s in the Woods?” evolved after a very vivid dream Maggie had while living in LA. “It woke me up. It was terrifying. I just grabbed my notebook and wrote everything I remembered.” The dream became a screen play which she showed to friends. “If that’s a dream,” she was told, “I’d hate to see what you have for a nightmare.”
One day while talking to co-workers, it was decided they should do a project together. Maggie’s friend, Michel Dominguez-Beddome, decided she wanted to direct Maggie’s screen play. The screenplay was already 10 years old, so Maggie had to transform it with modern dialogue. Then came the hard parts: finding a location to film, determining how many cast members were needed, creating a budget and doing a fundraising campaign. “All of the not fun stuff. My most hated process (the fundraising) AND the thing I loved about it.” Maggie confides, “I’m not comfortable asking for money. I had so much anxiety when we launched it (the fundraising campaign) and put it out there, but the amount of support we got from people, from literally all walks of my life, it blew my mind. It was very humbling. I was just so grateful that people wanted to help me out. One of my favorite things was friends from my childhood I hadn’t talked to since middle school donating.”
“I’ve always loved horror movies,” said Maggie. “I blame that on my sisters. It was a neat experience to go from all that uncomfortable anxiety to validity of what you are doing.”
Maggie gives a lot of credit to Michel and her husband, Mikey Dominguez-Beddome. “It started with Michel, our director, saying I want to do this, let’s do this and then her husband Mikey saying yea and the two of them just, the project happened because of the two of them. Those two gave me the help and motivation to make something.”
“The one rule of production is hope for the best, plan for the worst, and it’s still all the unexpected things that happen,” said Maggie as they prepared for the weekend during which the film, which is 15-minutes long, would be shot. It turns out it was a challenging weekend.
“Literally anything that could go wrong did go wrong.” The truck carrying the gear got a flat on the way to the location, a tree farm in Pennsylvania that was closed for the season. Another car got stuck in the mud because it was raining so hard. “I haven’t slept in five days, This is great,” she laughingly recalls about that weekend in November 2018. “People don’t understand how many people it takes to put something together. You just have to have the right team. I am very grateful I had so many connections to so many talented people to help us out.”
A few weeks after filming, they started watching footage they had shot and piecing it together. Maggie got slammed at TV Boy, so Mikey and Michel started editing and putting it together. “I was worried when we shot it that we lost so much time. We didn’t get everything we wanted to shoot. I am really happy with the final product.”
The film was completed earlier this year. A screening for cast and crew, friends and contributors was planned with a party at a Brooklyn venue for Friday, the 13th. March 13th. And as things should go with a horror story, New York Governor Cuomo declared that he was locking down New York on March 10. The screening had to be postponed. No one has seen the film yet except for Maggie, Michel and Mikey.
What’s in the Woods is an official selection for the Fall 2020 Oregon Scream Week happening this month. It’s also a selection for the Indie Memphis Film Festival, appearing later this month.
“When I think of my first love of movies as a kid, it was the State Wayne Drive-in on Michigan Avenue. My parents would take us to the drive-in, and I have good memories,” reminisces Maggie. Her favorite thing to do when she comes home to Wayne is visit the State Wayne Theatre. When she was younger, she didn’t want to see Star Wars at the IMAX; she wanted to go to the State Wayne.
Now imagine this…You are out in the middle of nowhere with a few friends. You’re shooting your film late at night. It’s pitch dark. You see headlights coming up that path, but your movie set is closed. No one else should be out at this vacant tree farm in the middle of nowhere. The silhouette of a man gets out of the truck. You see him rummaging in his pockets, for what you don’t know. (“This is what happens in the horror story,” says Maggie.) You call out to the man, but he doesn’t answer as he’s still fumbling in his pockets. Your heart is beating out of your chest. What are you going to do?
As it turns out, you don’t have to do anything. The man is the groundskeeper. He says no one was supposed to be on the property, so he was checking them out. He had been looking in his pockets for a weapon when he saw crew members. It was then that they realized Andy Day, who owned the cabin they were shooting at and played a bad guy in the film, was in full hair and makeup for the horror film. The groundskeeper had been terrified!
For more information about the film, check out www.whatsinthewoodsmovie.com. To learn more about TV Boy, go to www.tvboynyc.com.