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Independent “Hipster” Filmmakers Illegally Kill Two Deer On-Set

Screen shot from the film

The filmmakers of the new indie thriller First Winter are currently under investigation in New York for killing two deer on-set outside of hunting season and without a permit.

A spokeswoman for the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) said the agency is looking into the incident, but has not released further information. The penalty for hunting a deer without a permit is a fine up to $2,000 and/or imprisonment.

“We are idiots. We didn’t know how to do this [hunting] stuff,” director Ben Dickinson told Manhattan-based DNAinfo.com. “There were so many deer weak from the winter and getting eaten by local dogs we didn’t even think about it.”

The film premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York today, but the festival has canceled red carpet plans for First Winter (that may not be connected to the illegal shooting, the film’s publicist says the festival cancels many red carpets). The movie is about a group of Brooklyn hipsters who head to a remote country farmhouse in New York living a life of sex, drugs, yoga and organic cooking. Then an apocalyptic blackout strands them without heat or electricity during the coldest winter on record and they must work past power struggles, jealousy and the struggle to survive – hence where the killing of the deer comes in.

In an interview at Tribeca, the director was asked about the “lightning strikes” moment when they took the deer on camera. Dickinson said, “The hunting of the deer was an incredibly trying and intense process. We spent days and days walking around in the cold, and at a certain point even considered cheating in some way [faking the kill]. But in the end, I was convinced that it had to be authentic, and I was prepared to change the story if need be. I would recommend dressing an animal to anyone, especially if you eat meat or wear leather; it changes your perspective.”

Dickinson said it took them several days to even find a deer. One day, as they were practicing yoga inside the farmhouse, someone spotted a herd of deer in the neighboring field. They grabbed a rifle and ran outside. Actor Paul Manza, who plays the 34-year-old yoga instructor, who had no prior hunting or acting experience, pulled the trigger.

The bullet pierced and killed one deer and passed into a second behind it, wounding the second. To put it out of its suffering, the crew chased it down and shot it again. Then, they skinned one of the carcasses, cut it up and cooked it over an open fire for the camera.

After the fact, Dickinson did not think about the legality of hunting deer and simply didn’t secure a permit to do so. The film’s publicist, Jenny Lawhorn, is in discussions with the DEC, but a spokeswoman from the DEC doesn’t have any additional comments at this time.

Any views or opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect those of OutdoorHub. Comments on this article reflect the sole opinions of their writers.
  • kevinr

    This is not a movie I’ll be watching or supporting. It appears, from the statement above, that the scene was used. So, there is an instance of poaching in the film, not hunting. Reading the statement above it appears as though while two deer were killed, only one was dressed and eaten, another issue that flies directly in the face of ethical hunters. Lastly, it looks like it would put me to sleep. The producers, directors, etc. cannot use ignorance of the law as an excuse to break it. I’ve seen film crews, usually with a good number of people involved including directors, assistants, producers, actors, camera operators, photographers, sound/mic operators, etc. @ the film staff: YOU MEAN TO TELL ME NOT ONE PERSON KNEW THAT KILLING DEER OUT OF SEASON AND WITHOUT PERMITS IS AGAINST THE LAW? I doubt that. I believe they did know what they were doing. Their position was, “It ain’t against the law until you get caught.” Well, you got caught! I say punish them to the full extent the law allows, the shooter and director at least for ordering the killing of the deer. Further, the footage should be confiscated. If it had been a legal hunt I would have supported the show, but poaching? No way!

  • Harrisrick54

    What a bunch of idiots. There are no excuses for what they did. They didn’t even think about it, What a crock. Who in thier right mind doesn’t know you can’t just go out a shoot deer anytime you want. rediculous.

  • busyone5

    This goes to prove what I tell my children frequently. Hollywood is so out of touch with reality that they should not be taken seriously and never, NEVER looked to for advice or to pattern your life after. This is really typical of most in the film industry. These people are so focused trying to propagandize their agenda through film, they lose touch with what actually goes on in the real world. NO ONE knew there was a deer season?? Or, you have to buy a license??? Are you kidding me?

  • Forever wild

    Total lie, those deer weren’t starving and weak. You do not have the credentials to make such an observation. Stick to making kombucha and stay outa upstate. Ps you used a military rifle.. Knucklehead soap dodger.