Story Time: How the "Wolfman" saved our short film

Last Fall we released a short film (that's a fancy way of saying a commercial) we made in conjunction with my friend Matt Trygar and his team at Flagship Visuals here in Virginia Beach.  (See that video below)


Since I first started Saw & Mitre Frame Co. it was one of my top goals to tell the story behind the brand and why I started making frames to begin with through video.  I had been scripting how the story would be told in my head before writing what I wanted to say down on paper.  Once I brought the story to Matt, he took off with it and brought it to life in a very special way.

The outside scenes of the film were shot in one of my favorite places on earth, Hatteras Island, NC.  It's a place I visit often.  When Matt and I began talking about where/when to film, I wanted it to be somewhere that felt close to me, a place that I had been and photographed hundreds of times before.  The overarching goal of the project was to be authentic, so Hatteras was a perfect choice.  We also wanted to go down on a bad weather day where the elements were significantly at play.   So we chose to head down during a brutally cold (for North Carolina, that is) day in February.  I think the high temperature that day was about 27° F with a wind chill in the teens.  It was cold, but I often go out in the cold and stormy conditions myself. 

For the inside scenes, those are filmed at our workshop/warehouse in Virginia Beach.  It's nothing fancy, but that's where I spend most days either building frames or working at my desk.  

Getting the drone prepped for filming.  Hatteras, North Carolina.

Matt from Flagship Visuals getting the drone prepped for filming.

Encounter with "The Wolfman"

One of the most memorable parts of making this film was in April when we were back down in Hatteras to finish up filming for the second part of the outdoor scenes in the film.  After reviewing the footage from the first day, there were a few more shots we wanted get to help tie everything together (namely the last scene on top of my car and a couple of the aerial shots).  So anyway, one of my favorite scenes is the drone footage of my car driving down the road splitting the island. It's beautiful.  In order to get it I pretty much had to drive back and forth up and down that road about 15 times.  As you can see, to both sides of the road is sand.  Some of it's hard and easy to drive on, and some is rather soft (think of a snow drift).  Without any clear places to turn around I had to guess at the best places where I wouldn't get stuck.  Well, unfortunately I guessed wrong.  (I have 4x4 on my truck but like the dummy I am, I didn't have it in gear until it was too late).

So I think you probably know where this is going.  I got my Land Cruiser stuck.  Bad.  All the way to the rear axel.  There was absolutely no hope of getting it out on it's own.  After about 10 minutes of trying to dig it out on my own, an old red Ford F-150 (with a winch, I noticed immediately) pulls over.  "Thank goodness" I'm thinking to myself.  I was about to ruin the whole day of filming.

The door opens and a big, burley man in gray sweatpants, a white t-shirt and a matching handlebar mustache steps out.  "Here's the deal" he says, right off the bat.  "Ever hear of a place called Barstow?".  To which I answer, with a polite uncertainty, "I think so".   

From spending years driving from Virginia Beach to the Outer Banks, I've seen about every billboard or sign along the road, and funnily enough, I had noticed the small sign for Barstow that morning, which if you hand't noticed it, you would never even know it was there.  There is a Shell gas station along the road and that's really the only identifier for the place.

"I raise wolves", he goes on, "and I'll pull you out, but as payment I need you to bring my wolves dinner".  At this point, I'm a little freaked out, to be honest.  "They like chicken quarters and you can pick up two packs at the Food Lion on your way back home".  

"I've towed 9 people out, and all 9 have paid - don't you be the one to break the streak", he carried on with a wry grin.  At this point I'm just so happy to have a tow. I readily agree.  I just want to get my truck out! 

Did I mention I got the truck stuck?  Really stuck.  Even with the "Wolfman's" winch it took us a good 15 minutes to dislodge the vehicle.

After pulling the truck out of the sand, I start chatting with the self-proclaimed "Wolfman" to find out more about him because he seemed like a pretty interesting guy.  He told me his actual name, Richard, what he did for a living, and that he'd been raising wolves for about 30 years.  He even handed me a business card with his name, phone number, and of course, pictures of his wolves.  Though still strange, he came off as much more normal than I thought in our initial two minute conversation. I think internally he was having a good chuckle at me.

On location in Hatteras, North Carolina.

Prepping for the last shot in the film.

Fast forward to later that evening, at about 9 PM and I'm driving home. Internally I'm thinking to myself, "It's late, this guy is a complete stranger, I'll just wait until I come next time and drop off the chicken...or I just won't drop it off at all".  The latter option seemed like a good one for a couple minutes, as I'd probably never see this man again.   But my conscious prevailed and as I drove by the Food Lion supermarket Richard mentioned, I pulled into the parking lot to buy the chicken breasts.

$8.99 later and at about 9:30 PM, I pull up to the "Wolfman's" house, which was right by the side of the road, exactly where he said it was, with the red F-150 that saved my day parked out front.  

I'm not going to lie, it was dark, I was in rural North Carolina, this was a complete strangers house.  Of which the only details I knew about him were his name, job and that he had TWO GROWN WOLVES that liked chicken which I just so happened to be carrying with me. 

I pulled into his driveway, which was more like an open field, reversed the car so that it was pointing towards the exit, and left the engine on idle for a quick getaway, if need be.  I've watched plenty enough movies to know the deal :)

The "Wolfman's" house was similar to any number of old farm houses in this area, except that the front door/porch had been changed to resemble the doors of a convenience store.  Two large clear glass panels with metal handles, like you'd see walking into any 7-11 in the country.  This actually allowed me to peek in the house before knocking.  Everything seemed normal enough.  Around a corner of a wall I could make out see the flicker of a television screen.  

I thought about doing a knock and run, leaving the chicken behind, but leaving raw chicken on someone's doorstep is not the nicest gesture in the world.  So I started knocking...and knocking.  No answer.  I back up from the house and start looking for signs of someone moving around - but nothing.  So I start knocking again, this time it was more like banging. 

Finally the "Wolfman" appeared, almost stumbling around the corner to see who was at the front door.  I couldn't tell if he was drunk or I had just woken him up.  Turned out that I had just woken him up.  

A bit surprised to see me, and maybe even more surprised that I actually followed through he came to the door and greeted me like were old friends and asked why I didn't knock on the back door (as if it would have helped).  

Though he was friendly, I still wanted to get out of there as fast as possible, fearing, at worst, some sort of Freddie Cruger moment.  But he asked me if I wanted to see the wolves, to which my curiosity prevailed.  How could I not see the wolves after all this?  So he took me around into his back yard where some sturdy fencing had been built, and sure enough there were the wolves.  

They were not excited to see me.  If you've ever wanted to stand two feet away from a full grown wolf who is snarling at you, don't.  It's terrifying.  It also didn't help that I was still holding the chicken in the plastic bag either.  The Wolfman even started opening the gate as if we were going to walk into the cage, but they were growling so much he decided against it.  There was no way I was going in though.  

After telling me about the wolves, we exchanged goodbye's and I thanked him again for his kindness earlier in the day when he could have just kept driving past me.  Before I left though, I had to take a quick photo as proof that the wolves did in fact exist...

The wolf.  Image by David Rathbone.

I've since driven past the "Wolfman's" house on a number of occasions on the way to go surfing in Hatteras.  It doesn't matter who is with me, I always point out the house and tell them this story.  In just a small way, it was getting me out of my comfort zone when a total stranger had gotten out of his and helped me out.  I'm glad I didn't decide to keep driving.    


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