Private Project

East of Denver

When Shakespeare Williams returns to his family’s farm in Eastern Colorado to bury his dead cat, he finds his widowed and senile father Emmett living in squalor. Emmett has no money, the land is fallow, and a local banker has cheated him out of the majority of the farm equipment and his beloved Cessna. With no job and no prospects, Shakespeare suddenly finds himself caretaker to both his dad and the farm, and drawn into an unlikely clique of old high school classmates: Vaughn Atkins, a paraplegic confined to his mother’s basement, Carissa McPhail, an overweight bank teller who pitches for the local softball team, and longtime bully D.J. Beckman, who now deals drugs throughout small-town Dorsey.

Facing the loss of the farm, Shakespeare hatches a half-serious plot with his father and his fellow gang of misfits to rob the very bank that has stolen their future.

  • Erin Harper
  • Rachel Dengiz
    Trouble, Poor Behavior, Keep In Touch
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Writer Biography - Erin Harper

My name is Erin Harper. I grew up in the house my dad grew up in, on a farm in Eastern, Colorado. I have had ten addresses since leaving.

I grew up raising a heard of 15 Holstein heifers. Their milk money sent me to Northwestern University. Prized heifers they were and great milk-making machines. I could use one now, my twin toddlers drink a LOT of milk. Weird that I dislike the taste of milk.

I produced the feature film, "My Best Day" which premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2012. I directed a short film, "Passion" which received New York state funding for development into a live improvised film about a Polish jazz violinist. I have worked as a cinematographer with Barbara Hammer on her award winning short, "Maya Deren's Sink." I teach in the film and video department at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. "East of Denver" is my feature directorial debut.

Other writing projects include "Now Museum, Now You Don't," the short script to precede "East of Denver", "Into the Silent Land," an adaptation of Paul Broks' travels in neuropsychology, and I am now working on an original anthology, "Road G" a hybrid series similar to "The Twilight Zone." Its working title, "Road G" is a hybrid series, that details the Un-homesteading of America's rural heartland and entertains the notion that what you see is not what it is. Drawing conclusions may not hold any weight, but acting on assumptions can change one’s life.

I anticipate that my close collaboration with Gregory Hill will lead to a trilogy adaptation of his award winning books beginning with "East of Denver, " followed by "The Lonesome Trials of Johnny Riles" and the completion of, "Zebra Skin Shirt" which will be published in late 2017 and occurs in a period of 10 minutes following the conclusion of "East of Denver."

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Writer Statement

I grew up with the author of "East of Denver," although neither of us knew it at the time.

His basketball teams played games in my high school gym. I showed cattle in the same county fair where he showed off hand built electric motors. And we both grew up on the dusty plains of Eastern Colorado.

I first spoke to Gregory in 2012, when I called him, just moments after I'd finished his book. I live in NY now and Gregory lives in Denver and, although we'd never met one another, within moments we had established a bond based on our common experiences growing up in Yuma County, Colorado.

Forgotten in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado's Eastern Plains are a strange, brutal country. The plains are a land of isolation, where it rains so rarely that nothing ever rusts, and where you learn to take care of yourself and your machines, or you'll die waiting for help. It's a place where a senile old man can wander for miles and not lose sight of his house.

East of Denver is fiction, sort of. A native's memories, embellished by a writer's imagination. I know these characters, I know the locale, and I know the singular dialect of the region. The story is about humans, not tired rural stereotypes.

In making this film, I will return to my roots. I will portray these rural communities in all their nuanced humor, stoic bravery, and lonesome madness.

From the deterioration of his father's mind, to his own prodigal return to land that he never quite understood, Shakes must confront the topographies of clumsy humanity. He must convince himself, his father and his friends that theirs is a battle worth fighting, even if they know they can never win. Freedom is letting go of what has always had a hold on you.

I want to be the new female voice for the rural heartland and add a perspective that no fiction or non-fiction story has yet approached.