COMMUNITY

New movie filmed in southern Oregon to screen at Salem Cinema Friday

A new independent film shot in Ashland and Medford featuring an all-local Oregon cast will screen at Salem Cinema on Friday at 7 p.m. 

“Above the Trees” is about a man who is assaulted and put into a serious coma. His best friend, a local boxer, is charged for the crime. The story follows five characters who are all linked to the events as a criminal trial proceeds in Jackson County. 

Director Gary Lundgren came up with the idea during the worst of the Covid pandemic.

Lundgren had a lot of time on his hands to consume lots of true crime podcasts and TV shows. He said he quickly became fascinated with stories about people wrongfully imprisoned for crimes they didn’t commit. One typical outcome of these stories, he said, was that after such an injustice was done, there was no real way to find resolution, or to truly put the puzzle back together. 

“My idea more so was, ‘What if we could control the outcome?’ Where perhaps the kind of people we want to be in life are maybe more observant, maybe more kind, maybe aren’t totally bound by bureaucracy and doing their job and protecting your domain,” Lundgren said. 

Lundgren and his wife Annie, the film’s producer, moved to Ashland in 2011 after the release of their first movie, “Calvin Marshall.” “Above the Trees,” debuted last Friday in Ashland where the local community responded enthusiastically, Lundgren said.

Tickets for the Salem showing cost $11 and can be purchased on the theater’s website. The couple will host a Q&A after the screening.

Loretta Miles, the owner of the Salem Cinema, said she has known Annie and Gary Lundgren for many years and that “Above the Trees,” will be the third film by them that she has shown in her theater.

“People love the idea that they are Oregonians and that their movies are shot in Oregon and that their actors are Oregonians,” Miles said. “I have gone out of my way over the years to be supportive of film makers that are truly independent and these people are as independent as it gets.”  

The film was shot using an all local cast in a number of iconic spots in both Ashland and Medford with scenes featuring Lithia Park and the Ashland Plaza in Ashland and the Jackson County jail and courthouse in Medford. 

Gary Lundgren said in his version of a true crime drama he worked to provide resolution at the end while still leaving the possibility for the outcome to be interpreted by the viewer. 

“I wanted to keep one door open a little bit. The what ifs. Sometimes the people who know exactly what happened are those that are there. There is a little bit of a question of, “What if that didn’t happen?’” he said. “For the most part, it is all resolved, it is all there, and I think people will have their point of view at the end.” 

Filming began in 2021 and while it took about six to eight months to shoot the film, it was routinely interrupted by the pandemic. Having a local cast and crew helped, he said. 

“It was really a luxury having actors that lived here because normally you have a really unforgivable schedule,” Lundgren said. “It was a real exciting thing to work with talented actors right here sort of on our own terms.” 

Annie Lundgren said filming in a town like Ashland produced a far more relatable film for those who will watch it, especially viewers who are from or are familiar with the Rogue Valley. 

“I think there is something with this film in particular that feels really beautiful. Because this is probably the first film we completely embrace the fact that it was taking place in Ashland,” Annie Lundgren said. “One person in the end came up and they were so moved and they said, ‘This really feels like a love letter to Ashland.’ And it did feel like that a little. You capture the authenticity of the people and the culture and the place.”

Contact reporter Joe Siess: [email protected] or 503-335-7790.

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Joe Siess is a reporter for Salem Reporter. Joe joined Salem Reporter in 2024 and primarily covers city and county government but loves surprises. Joe previously reported for the Redmond Spokesman, the Bulletin in Bend, Klamath Falls Herald and News and the Malheur Enterprise. He was born in Independence, MO, where the Oregon Trail officially starts, and grew up in the Kansas City area.