Mike Cheslik and Ryland Brickson Cole Tews have been friends and collaborators (L.I.P.S and LAKE MICHIGAN LAKE MONSTER) for a very long time. That, and their particular sense of humor is something that becomes apparent very quickly when speaking to them, as I did via Zoom on March 1, 2024. We were talking about their latest film, HUNDREDS OF BEAVERS, a monstrously funny and inventive story about Jean Kayak, played by Tews, an aspiring fur-trapper, his one true love, and the eponymous rodents with their surprisingly sophisticated plans that get his way. Or does he get in the beavers’ way?

Cheslik and Tews have devised such a purely visual film, that a mere outline can never hope to do justice. Set in the snowy woods of Wisconsin during the dead of winter at the turn of the last century, it is a cracked masterpiece of absurdity that involves animation, live-action, and actors dressed up in mascot costumes with unexpectedly moving results. Not to mention non-stop sight gags, violent deaths, and courtroom scene worthy of Kafka.

Obviously, there was much to discuss, but I started with when the pair first realized that there might be something nefarious about beavers.

We went on to talk about why the film eschews dialogue; Tews suffering frostbite from frolicking in the snow; why there was no improvisation; and the magic of John Tray choreographing kung fu using those actors in mascot costumes.

We finished up with watching the film with an audience; how Bob Barito got the sound right in a silent film; surrendering an apartment to a log flume sequence; why they went the self-distribution route; and why there might just be a bidding war for the racoon hat that Tews wears in the film.

Cheslik directed from a script he wrote with Tews. It co-stars Doug Mancheski, Wes Tank, Luis Rico, and Olivia Graves as the bewitching furrier who captures Kayak’s heart, and gives him one in return.