Writer returns home to scope out sets

Los Angeles screenwriter and producer Zach Van Eyck stands in the alleyway outside Beidler's Furniture in Woodstock. Van Eyck is planning to shoot several films in the county in the next year and is scouting out locations. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – The Northern Shenandoah Valley may be serving as a creative canvas for film and television writer Zack Van Eyck next summer and beyond.

In the middle of seeing his TV pilots compete in a number of film festivals from New York to Canada to Los Angeles, Van Eyck stopped back home in Woodstock to scout out possible locations for future projects.

He said his mother’s house and property will serve as one good location for some of his projects, and he’s been brainstorming other scene settings like graveyards and railroad tracks in the Shenandoah County area.

“A lot of this is about finding what’s available and then writing to what’s available,” he said.

One specific site he’s been hunting for is an alleyway for a low-budget feature titled “Alley Cats,” in which five city dwellers ponder their past lives in the lost city of Atlantis. Other ideas for projects to be filmed in the area have yet to make it onto paper, but Van Eyck has them in spades.

Van Eyck lived and attended school in Woodstock for much of his youth until moving to Alaska after his eighth grade year. He worked for a number years in news, including almost two years as a news bureau chief of the Northern Virginia Daily. Then, after attending a screenwriter’s convention, he pursued the self-taught route of writing for film and TV.

“I’m a writer primarily and that’s what I like to do … the only reason I direct is because I don’t want to hire someone else,” he said. “I enjoy it because I see directing as protecting the writer’s work or seeing the vision through, and I think a writer/director is a great thing to have.”

It’s not just location he’s been scouting for in Woodstock and Shenandoah County – he said he’s also been networking and reaching out to local talent to include in his films. For the weekslong filming periods on scene, he said he’d fly his core cast and crew from California and seek out his remaining cast and crew locally. After filming, the post-production period would move Van Eyck and his fellow Californians back out West.

He said he’s already reached out to old classmates and community members to help plan their parts in filming sessions in 2017 and into the future.

“It’s always been in the back of my mind that once I ‘made it in Hollywood,’ I would come back and make stuff,” he said. “I still don’t think I’ve ‘made it in Hollywood,’ but I at least now have an IMDB (Internet Movie Database) page that says I’ve won six awards and one nomination, which is cool.”

Van Eyck said that carving his own way with his stories through film is definitely not easy. Like many other writers he knows in Hollywood, he said most of his projects are deferred pay, promising future reimbursement to those that lend their talents to the vision.

He said the online TV success of produced works like his comedy “Sweet Caroline” – which may end up saddled with a Shenandoah-set sequel – will help get these new projects off the ground financially.

“The only way to really do what I want to do – which is creative self expression – is to have full control over the production from the standpoint of writing and directing at least,” he said. “If you’re in control of it, then it’s your vision…and that’s the thing that’s difficult that I’ve found in Hollywood.”

Check out more on Van Eyck’s work at http://tinyurl.com/hcpstmu.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com