Q&A with ‘Boomtown’ Director Sabyn Mayfield

Director Sabyn Mayfield tells the story of a man who is willing to risk it all to take care of his family in the heart felt film, “Boomtown.”

Director Sabyn Mayfield has teamed up with ‘The Orchard’ a film and video distribution company to release the official trailer for ‘Boomtown’!

The movie synopsis tells the story of John ‘JT’ Turner, who is a father and husband faced with a difficult decision of how to provide for his family. While having to leave everything behind including his wife and child, JT takes a grueling and dangerous job in a booming oil town that holds promise to make ends meet.

What inspired the film?

To be completely honest, David Newbert (my DP and Producing partner) and I had just shot this really cool video for an artist named Julien Baker. We shot this really stripped down, emotional and raw video without any bells and whistles and it turned out amazing. That was a real turning point for me as a director in terms of style. Shortly after that Dave and I were having lunch and he asked me what I knew about North Dakota and the oil boom. That one question led us down a rabbit hole of new articles, documentaries, phones interviews with folks who lived there, flying up to Williston, and ultimately writing and shooting the film.

How did you find the right location to shoot the production? 

Well, there was only one location, and that was Williston, North Dakota. It is ground zero for Domestic Oil Drilling and received the most attention in terms of a city that benefited and suffered from the Oil Boom and subsequent fallout. There had been a lot of new stories and a couple documentaries, but no one had done a narrative film on this subject, so it made sense to set up shop on the front lines.

What message do you want the audience to take away with them after watching this film? 

My goal as a filmmaker is to tell stories about real people, in real places, happening in real time. There is a huge void to me in modern cinema with films addressing what is going on around us right now. I wanted to make a film about an everyday man, that anyone could relate to, who was struggling to make ends meet and was willing to go to any length to make a better life for him and his family. Our main character certainly has bumps and bruises along the way, but the essence of this story is a struggle and the desire for something better.

How long did it take you to finish production?

Believe it or not the entire process, from conception to worldwide distribution, was just over 2 years. I started writing the film in June of 2015. We started shooting in November of 2015 and shot for 24 days. Then had about of week of pickups and re-shoots early 2016. After that, we completed post and shortly after finalized a deal with The Orchard.

When did you know the lead actor Tyler Riggs was perfect to play the part of John ‘JT’ Turner?

I knew that I needed an unknown actor who we could easily immerse in Williston and would not be a distraction. But I also knew I needed an actor who had the chops to carry a movie. I was essentially looking for a guy no one had ever heard of that could act his ass off. Lucky for me I found him in Tampa Florida. Tyler and I were both at a film festival there and I saw a short film he did. I went up to him afterward (which I seldom do) and told him how great I thought it was. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Did you have a say in who produced the soundtrack for the movie?

To be completely honest, I had 100% say in every single aspect of the film. I was fortunate to shoot a film where I was allowed to work with a very small and trusted crew, and our Executive Producer(s) trusted me absolutely to bring this film to fruition as I saw fit. Now with that said, I love the collaborative process, so I sought input at times, but we knew early on that we wanted John Moreland to do the original songs. And through David Macias and Thirty Tigers, we were able to make that happen. And after we wrapped principal photography I knew we needed an amazing composer to supplement the songs with an incredible score. It just so happens that Ali Helnwein reached out to me at exactly the same time.

Did you give yourself a part in the movie?

Unfortunately, no. In theory, I would love to be the guy who could cameo in his own films, and I think I would actually be good. But the problem is, once the camera rolls and all those people are standing around I get really nervous and start sweating.

What was your favorite scene to direct in the movie?

That is a really difficult question. What most people don’t know about this film is that there are only 5 actors in the film. Everyone else who appears are real people. I knew there was no way to try and recreate that world with trained actors because it was just too unique. It was also logistically and financially impossible based on budget and location. So, I would have to say that my favorite part was tip toeing the line between scripted and no scripted performers to create a narrative based on authentic experience from people who have lived and still live this life.


‘Boomtown’ is due to release on Digital and on Demand September 5th!

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