Learning to cope with the ramifications of war can be a harrowing experience for both veterans and the civilians they encounter as they try to reintegrate back into society. That’s certainly the case for actor Sean Crampton’s character of Woodman, a veteran who’s struggling to reconnect with his wife and civilian life after he returns home from his tour of duty, in the new action thriller, ‘The Stalking Fields.’
Besides starring in the movie, Crampton also co-wrote the script with Jordan Wiseley, and the duo drew from personal experience while developing the story. The drama follows a group of civilians run for their freedom when they find themselves caught in the middle of a Black Ops program designed to cure PTSD in veterans. Both scribes grew up in military families and felt it was important to make a movie about the ramifications of PTSD.
The feature was directed by first-time filmmaker and Army veteran, Ric Maddox. ‘The Stalking Fields’ stars Crampton in a breakthrough performance, as well as Taylor Kalupa, Adam J. Harrington, Rachael Markarian, Wiseley and the feature’s stunt coordinator, Richard O. Ryan. The thriller is now playing on digital platforms, courtesy of Gravitas Ventures.
Crampton generously took the time recently to talk about penning, starring in and producing ‘The Stalking Field’ during an exclusive interview over Zoom. Among other things, the filmmaker discussed that he was in part inspired to write the screenplay because his father, who served as a Navy SEAL, felt that a lot of movies don’t accurately depict PTSD, so he wanted to show what the experience is really like. The scribe-actor, who also served as a producer, also enjoyed his experience working with Maddox while making the drama, as the helmer was also able to use his Army experience to help guide the production.
The conversation began with Crampton explaining why he was inspired to pen the script for the film, and what his scribing process was like for the feature with Wiseley. “I started writing this in 2015. My father was a Navy SEAL for almost 30 years, so I grew up around that,” he shared.
“What I saw was that there weren’t a lot of films depicting PTSD in a true, realistic way, in a way that I was seeing it, or the way that my dad was seeing it in his community,” the scribe continued.
“So Jordan and I found our way into the film’s story in this way. Initially, it was about these people running for their lives, and what they had at stake. Then we found the military aspect to it, and that seemed to give it an edge and give us more of a voice because we had something to say about that. That’s why we leaned into it,” Crampton added.
Following up on the fact that his father served as a Navy SEAL, the filmmaker further discussed how his father’s experience helped shape the story for ‘The Stalking Fields.’ “Our director, Ric Maddox, was an Army sniper, so him being there lent itself to that. I also asked my dad quite a bit about development stuff. Jordan also has a grandfather who was in the Army, so he also asked him questions,” he revealed.
“One thing that we found that was interesting to us was that when I was talking to my dad, he was talking about Hollywood movies. He said, ‘That’s not how I see PTSD show up; I see it show up more in what they call behavioral avoidance,’” Crampton divulged.
“So if you got into a car crash, you wouldn’t drive anymore. If you’re a warrior and you fight, you don’t want to fight anymore,” the writer explained.
“When Jordan and I found out that it costs $1 million a year to train a SEAL, I was like, ‘I bet the military has a hard time letting go of them because they’re so expensive. So that’s how we crafted that for the film,” Crampton added.
Also following up on what his collaboration with Maddox as the film’s helmer was like, Crampton shared that “Ric was great in a lot of senses. We had known each other from acting school about 10 years prior. So I knew he was a veteran and an incredible actor. He’s in the film as well and did an incredible acting job,” the filmmaker said while praising the director.
“So the process with him was amazing. He was really good in keeping us in line. He’d say, ‘Oh, it’s more like this.’ He also did a great job of taking care of the emotional storyline, and he was just generally a pleasure to be around,” Crampton added.
Then speaking more about also acting in the thriller, the performer explained that it was always his intention to also star in the drama as Woodman. “I moved to L.A. 15 years ago to become an actor. When I first got here, I was taking meetings, and it was very clear early on that no one was going to hire me, or that’s how I saw it,” he revealed.
“I was 21, fresh out of college, and I had managers saying ‘You’re too white, you’re too fat, you’re too old.’ I was like, ‘Damn, I’m only 21; I’m too old?’ I really didn’t understand,” Crampton admitted. “I still disagree, but it was actually a gift because it showed me that no one was going to hand it to you, and it’s a gift to be able to act.
“So from there, I found an acting school in North Hollywood called Playhouse West, where I basically found all my peers. For three years, we wrote, directed, edited, produced and did the sound of all of our stuff,” the actor continued.
“Then by the time I got to ‘The Stalking Fields,’ I had already done a feature where I was the star, a producer and the writer. So I had learned quite a bit,” the filmmaker also shared.
“The biggest trap in starring in something you also either produced, wrote or directed is that you don’t prepare the acting part. You think, I got it because I’m also the director I also wrote it,” Crampton revealed.
“So at this point, I wouldn’t say it was easy to do so many different jobs. But now when I book professional acting work, I get a little bored in my trailer because I’m used to do more than this,” the performer divulged.
“So this was a blessing. It was hard, but also really satisfying work. I’m already so proud of the film because of the people who were involved and what we accomplished. We only spent $95,000 on the film’s budget,” Crampton shared. “I don’t think there are many filmmakers on Earth who could do what we did for that little of a budget.”
Further speaking about producing, the filmmaker then delved into how in addition to co-writing and starring in the thriller, he also served as an executive producer on the feature. He delved into why he decided to also produce the movie, and how he balanced his acting and producing throughout the production.
“The technique I did included a physicality; I’d say, ‘This is producer Sean’ or ‘This is actor Sean,’” the filmmaker shared as he pretended to put a different hat on for each introduction. “That helped, as cheesy as it sounds. There were times when I was being asked writing questions by the other actors, so if they were looking at me as another actor, it could get a little confusing.”
Crampton also divulged that he feels he “couldn’t have done the movie without Jordan, (executive producers) Brooke (Mouton) and Tori (Deal), (and producers) Josh Jason and R.D. (Womack II) producing the hell out of these movies. So I have to give them lots of credit.
“It was tough work. We were up in Lake Tahoe in blizzard conditions, understaffed and underpaid, but also excited. But it was really hard work,” the producer added.
Further speaking about shooting the movie in Lake Tahoe, and how the story is mainly set in the isolated area of woods where the Black Ops program is held, Crampton shared what the experience of filming the feature on location was like. “Ric has what he calls a cowboy network. He’s from Texas, so he called and found this 150-acre property called Pollock Pines, which is this small, suburban area of Lake Tahoe,” he shared.
“But it was nine hours away from L.A., so if our equipment was damaged, it was tough. Like I mentioned, we had rain, hail and eventually a blizzard,” the filmmaker pointed out.
“In the junkyard scene, there isn’t any snow in the big wide shots. But that was from just one day of shooting; we had to flip and do coverage three days later. We couldn’t do it all in one day because of scheduling and the light,” Crampton shared.
“But in those three days, there was the blizzard. We couldn’t reshoot what we already had. We lost one of the actors, due to scheduling,” the producer revealed.
“So we basically had to pivot and find another location down below the mountain so there wasn’t any snow. But the problem was that if we went too low, the trees got smaller because of the air. So all of a sudden, the trees weren’t matching, so we had to find a perfect place. We also had to get permission to get onto the property,” Crampton also divulged.
“All of those things had to happen, and we did it in a day-and-a-half. Ric did it because he took his day off and traveled and got it,” the filmmaker continued.
“During that time, our G&E (Grip & Electric) team went to the blizzarded junk yard, and for six hours, scrapped and heated the cars so that we could do tight coverage, without seeing the snow. They did an amazing job; that was a stressful three days, but we pulled it off,” Crampton added, praising the drama’s crew.
With ‘The Stalking Fields’ featuring an ensemble cast, the filmmaker then delved into what the casting process was like for the feature. “I loved the casting process; I was very heavily involved in that. Almost every actor in the film was one of mine, which I’m proud to say. There are only two or three actors I wasn’t directly involved in hiring, and I still love their performances, as well,” he shared.
“I met Nora (Garrett) on this film, and she was absolutely stunning. She plays Rachel in the film,” Crampton shared. “I had worked with lot of these other actors, like Kyle (Brady), Ryan (Marsico) and Taylor (Kalupa), before, so for me, it was a no-brainer to hire them if they were available and we could avoid them.
“I want actors who are reliable, easy to be around and then talented,” the producer revealed. “There are a lot of talented people, and people tend to put that first. But I think about, can I deal with someone for 12 hours a day, five days a week? Are they going to show up, knowing their lines and be on time? Are they not going to be unreasonable?,” he added.
“All of those actors went above and beyond, and I would work with any of them again. I can’t wait to, and I’ve hired some of them since,” Crampton divulged. “So it was a beautiful process
“Adam J. Harrington was so good. His audition was mind-blowing,” the filmmaker revealed. “Jordan was also fantastic. Obviously, he didn’t audition, but the speech he gives in the war film was one of my favorite parts of the film. So it was so much fun getting to play.”
Crampton then delved into what his experience of collaborating with his co-stars to creating their characters’ relationships was like throughout the production. “Ric had a good hand in that, and obviously helped as the director.
“When we were in Tahoe, we all got Airbnbs, so people weren’t necessarily sequestered off. We also had family dinners every night, so they became tighter and tighter,” the actor shared.
“But they also understood the characters’ relationships; they didn’t know each other, so the actors leaned into that, as well. So it was a fun dance,” Crampton shared.
Actor “Ryan Marsico had a ton of stunt experience. He works at Universal in the stunt department,” the producer added. “So we got to find people’s talent and then expose it, and then also play them against type. Ryan’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. But in the movie, he plays Lance, and he’s one of the most brutal you’ll ever meet because he’s running from something.
“That was fun to discuss with these deep feeling artists; we talked about, what are you running from, what does this mean and what happened before we see you in the movie? It was a real pleasure,” Crampton also shared.
“What I remember the most is the laughs during the hard parts, as well as the game nights and family dinners, where we were all circling around the food after a hard day at work,” the filmmaker revealed.
Further speaking about the stunts, Crampton shared what the experience was like of creating the stunts for the actors with Ryan. “It was a challenge,” he admitted. “Richard got injured early on – he threw out his back. So we had him, but we didn’t. So we were relying on the ingenuity of everybody else.
“Luckily, our DP (Director of Photography), Nick Acosta stepped in. He’s one of those guys who, if you’re lucky enough to work with him, you’ll never forget it,” the actor shared. “He’s brilliant about doing action with almost no money or resources. So he really helped us there.
“Then on the last fight scene, Richard’s back healed, so he was able to come down. But imagine this – our set was sinking in video village, as it was raining so hard,” Crampton revealed.
“I was in a T-shirt and it was 40 degrees and hailing and raining. But we got lucky; we didn’t plan for the rain, it just happened,” the filmmaker continued.
“Richard was able to come down and show us the fight sequence before we filmed it. Ric was obviously there to guide the whole piece, but it was a challenge and so stressful,” Crampton added.
“I also have to give a shout-out to our incredible makeup artist, Sierra Barton, because she worked so hard and did more jobs than I asked for. My character had a cut in that fight scene, and it was an accident. So she had to incorporate that into the film with her make-up,” the performer also shared.
“In the gun sequence, we were shooting back and forth at each other. In one of the takes, the gun, which was fake but had real weight, dropped and hit me and split my nose for real. So we had to stop and check if I had a broken nose, because then I would have been black and blue the whole movie, and we would have had to stop the whole production,” Crampton divulged.
“Luckily it didn’t break, but Sierra was able to figure it out right then and there how to cover it. Those are the little things that I’ll never forget. She was only 23, but had the talent and ingenuity to figure out how to incorporate the cut into the movie. She said, ‘We didn’t shoot this scene and that scene, so this can be in the movie. Now she’s killing it, and is the head of a TV show in New Mexico (Nickelodeon’s live-action family comedy, ‘The Reall