High Ground

1930. Deep in debt, Stephen Wall enters a pole sitting contest against champion Jim Sherry, but as the days stretch on he becomes increasingly more paranoid that his wife Allison is having an affair with a stranger in the crowd.

  • Jeremy Stebens
  • Jeremy Stebens
  • Elizabeth Groth
  • Mickala Andres
  • Heidi Choi
  • Cameron Bass
    Key Cast
  • Jason Catron
    Key Cast
  • Heather Boaz
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Drama, Period
  • Runtime:
    19 minutes 53 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    March 13, 2019
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital, Arri Alexa
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Jeremy Stebens

Jeremy Stebens is a suburban California ex-pat, who now lives and works in New York. A New York University graduate, his film and photographic work focuses on where the surreal meets our everyday reality and history, and what that says about who we are, and how we shape our environments and relationships. His photographic work has been featured online in Life Framer, Feature Shoot, and in print in Pastiche Magazine #2. High Ground is his directorial debut.

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Director Statement

Ostensibly, High Ground is about men sitting on poles 20 feet in the air, an odd trend in American history that is by itself noteworthy. However, what happens to trends when an era is at its end, and who are the people still hanging on to them? So at its core, my goal for High Ground was to really explore the relationships between characters who can’t move, both physically and emotionally.
Stephen, our protagonist, came out a desire to see how an average person could get wrapped up in something like flagpole sitting - what pressures would drive them to this? Cameron Bass was cast because he had a very emotional face, and a great, humane sense of humor, which comes into play as we see Stephen weighing his options day after day on the pole. On the other hand, the character Jim represents our historical grounding in who the real veterans of this odd phenomenon were, and acts as a foil for Stephen who is just coming into this world. I had met Jason Catron, who plays Jim, on another short film and was really impressed with his energy and off the bat star-power, which was really necessary for playing this kind of showman character. Allison, Stephen’s wife, needed to be the logical one in all of this to really be the antagonist for Stephen, who’s making illogical choices for his own pride, or even delaying making choices at all. We were blessed to have Heather Boaz play the role, and she managed to bring a level of class and grace that the character needed, but also a real feeling of vulnerability underneath it all.
This cast in hand as our backbone, we set out initially to shoot this production as a thesis project with NYU, but a combination of production difficulties, forced us to go fully independent. The core problem we needed to creatively solve were how do we sell the time period practically, and on a budget. A lot of pre-production time from our wardrobe and hair and makeup teams went into researching and scrounging for thrift clothing and athletic wear to mimic the feel of beach attire from the the 1930s. The poles were designed and built by our production designer, Jayne Clark, and were in actuality only five feet tall. My cinematographer, Ahad Mahmood, and myself created forced perspective shots that would sell the height to be more significant. In all the production took four days and was shot on a private beach just south of Coney Island, a major influence on the history involved with the project.
In the end, I hope that audiences come away from this film not necessarily with answers, but definitely with questions about what causes standstills in our relationships, and if there really is a high ground to take in changing times, or is that the same as just sitting it out.