Young Los Alamos filmmaker Gus Yeager. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
A documentary film by 2021 Los Alamos High School graduate Gus Yeager called “Hauntings of the Atomic City” is garnering attention not only in Los Alamos elsewhere and is drawing fans on YouTube. The film, Yeager’s third, is a documentary, and can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC63HW_w7vpMOEbk6Fb83ymw
“I’ve always kind of been on the fence on whether or not the supernatural is real. I’ve always been drawn to whether or not it exists and I’m still not sure,” Yeager told the Los Alamos Reporter. “Going out and making this film, I was never expecting to find any evidence of ghosts or anything. More than anything I just wanted to explore the history of the town and the legends about it that go around.”
Yeager’s research for the film consisted mostly of talking to many people in the area including his step-dad Darren Schnedler, members of his baseball team and others who had information to offer.
“It was really cool to be able to talk to people in the area and hear all the similar threads. Living here you start to know the people you want to go and talk to and I am fortunate and thankful that people were willing to help me out and participate in this project,” Yeager said.
He said his first idea was more of a parody of ghost-hunting.
“The more I got into it, the more I realized I wanted to do a more serious take. I thought that was the only way to do Los Alamos justice. I decided I just wanted to take my town and its image more seriously,” Yeager said.
He said he has always loved storytelling and writing and that when he was younger he was always sitting at a computer writing some kind of a story. In high school he was introduced to a friend of his mom, Jeff Donaldson, who taught him how to write a screen play
“I kind of ran with it from there. In my junior year, a classmate of mine, Mason D’Andrea, and I ended up starting the YouTube channel Bachelor Film Co. together and I’ve been working on stuff since then.” Yeager said.
He has three films out right now and is hoping to have another one out before the end of summer. His first film, “Suzy”, is a 10-minute horror show that he co-directed with D’Andrea.
“It’s not the best. It was definitely a learning process and there are a lot of things I would change if I was to go back and do it all over again. But it came together nicely – I was really proud of all the work my cast and crew put into it. A very talented young actress in our junior class, Katherine Fanning, gave a spectacular performance,” Yeager said.
Also featured in “Suzy” are Zach Koehn, Susan Kroesche and Israel Shimshock as well as gaffers Liam Hooks and Sage Wilcox.
“It was great to work with them. None of this would have happened if I had not met these great, creative people,” Yeager said. “I am thankful to have had a bunch of classmates that are interested in this kind of thing so that I can bounce my creative ideas off them and work to make these films, because there is no way I could have done this by myself.”
The second film, “The Painting” was filmed over the course of two days and features Zach Koehn. The art work was done by Ericka Becker and the film as whole experimented with color.
Yeager would like to continue to write along the lines of “Hauntings of the Atomic City” if the material presents itself or if the opportunity or time to do so came up.
“If my audience, limited as that is, is interested, I might go out and do little mini-versions of that documentary in other places in the state,” he said, adding that he is hoping to collaborate more with D’Andrea before the summer ends.
Yeager is headed to Montana State University to pursue a degree in film. He chose Montana State because he feels the curriculum is more hands on than a lot of other schools, which was attractive to him.
“Their program may not be as prestigious as some others, but the fact that I can go out and make my own films is so appealing to me. I believe that if you want to get better at something you just have to do more of it,” he said.
Screenwriting is like the really big goal for him, Yeager said, noting that during the pandemic he has spent a lot of time writing.
“I just want to get better at it,” he said.
Yeager won the Teen Fiction of the 2020 Pasatiempo Writing Contest in the Santa Fe New Mexican with a piece called “The Fastening”. See https://losalamosreporter.com/2020/12/26/seven-los-alamos-teens-win-awards-in-2020-pasatiempo-writing-competition/