To the naked eye, it's a frozen stretch of land, but for Kayla Arendit's the heart and root of her art.
"It's always fun to bring my work home," said Arend, a 26-year-old second-year student in New York University's graduate film school.
It was, in part, that sentiment which led 2009 Mayo High School graduate Arend, and a small cast and crew, to shoot her 12-minute narrative film, "Chicken Boy," in Salem Corners for five days in December.
"I've been wanting to get a drama out of my system," she said.
And that's exactly what "Chicken Boy" turned out to be: A powerful, dark coming-of-age story following a young boy, bullied at school and with an equally bleak home life, as he confronts his demons in his homestead's chicken coop.
"It's kind of the world that's crushing him into this breaking point," Arend said.
Screening in spring
Just what that breaking point is hasn't been unveiled to the world quite yet. "Chicken Boy," which fulfills a class requirement for the young director, won't be screened until some time in May, at an as-yet-to-be-determined downtown Manhattan, New York location. After that, Arend said, she's going to try to get her work submitted to any number of film festivals around the globe, but she'd love to see the short screened in her hometown of Rochester.
While the actors were culled from greater Minnesota, the crew was mostly local.
Alex Block, a long-time friend and supporter of Arend's, was with her when she came up with the idea for the script, which happened last summer on a drive to see Dave Chappelle's comedy show in the Twin Cities.
"It just kind of flowed out of her," said Block, who served as one of "Chicken Boy's" producers. "I've just been along for the ride since day one."
Block, who helped secure lighting and props and anything else that was needed over the intense shoot, said he's marveled at watching Arend and company bring her art to life.
"It was very cool to see the creative side come out," he said.
Arend said she knew she was going to be stuck with her class's December film-shooting slot, and as she knew someone in Byron with a trailer, and she knew her local landscape, she wrote for what was at her disposal.
And, although her resume is studded with experience, this is the first time she's attempted a film of such length.
"I'm learning my process," Arend said.
One thing she learned quickly: Rochester has everything it takes to make a high-quality film. In part, that's thanks to Mike Kramer, of local Ambient House Productions, who served as another producer on "Chicken Boy," and also one of its camera operators. Arend found him when she did an internet search for local film and production equipment.
"I'm glad she reached out," said Kramer, who used a Red Digital Cinema Camera on a Movi Gimbal stabilizer during the shoot. "She was surprised we had a lot of the equipment she needed to execute her vision."
Kramer, whose company has been in business for three years, stressed it isn't a perfect camera, or perfect acoustics, someone needs to make a high-quality film, though.
"To make a great film," he said, "what has to be good is the emotional pull of the story."
In the case of "Chicken Boy," it wasn't just that emotional pull alone which drew Arend back to Rochester to film. Her mother, Kristy, is on a waiting list for a heart transplant, and shooting the short film gave Arend opportunities to come back to Minnesota multiple times for casting and filming.
"It's always hard to leave someone you feel so responsible for," Arend said.
And, along the way, Arend found out how many people are responsible for even a 12-minute film. Close to 50 people made "Chicken Boy" happen.
And, it's still happening.
As the winter turns colder, and Arend flew off to Nepal for another film shoot, she's going to be working with an editor and colorist to shape "Chicken Boy" into its final cut.
"It's been fun," she said," and interesting."