January 5, 2012 —
The first time I remember going to the Callicoon Theater was to see a print of “A River Runs Through It” that the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance (DVAA) was showing. I was probably 12. Since then, I’ve been back a half a dozen times. I’ve always liked it. I had my mind blown by “Being John Malkovich” and snapped a photo of Richard Castellano adjusting the marquee for “Analyze This.” The idea that a movie I am closely involved in would show there is a dream.
I remember when Sean Durkin and I rode into the Monticello bus station for the first time. We were both juniors at NYU and we were upstate to work on my short film. At the time, Sean was concentrating on cinematography.
“This place is awesome. I am going to shoot here someday,” he said.
I believed him, of course, but I don’t think I thought it would happen so soon.
The memory was in the front of my mind four years later while the “Martha Marcy May Marlene” (MMMM) crew milled about the bus station getting ready to film. It made me smile. I drove back to Narrowsburg when the shooting was over. Back to the editing room that I had set up on the second floor of the DVAA on Main Street.
I grew up going to operas, movies and plays at the Tusten Theater. I shot there for the very same student film that Sean and I rode up to scout. I roamed RiverFest and the gallery often. So when it came time to choose a place to edit while MMMM was being shot, the DVAA seemed like a natural progression.
Filming was based in Livingston Manor at the farmhouse owned by the family of Antonio Campos, one of the producers and part of the trio at Borderline Films (see page 15). It turned out that one of Sean’s producing partners and dear friend of Antonio’s family had an old farmhouse in Livingston Manor. The farm was picturesque and perfect for the story.
The production was still looking for a lake house where the second half of the film was to take place. Eventually Tenannah Lake stood in for Connecticut.
The film is about a young woman who escapes from a cult.
Earlier that summer, Sean had gotten back from the Sundance director’s lab and the shooting schedule was tight because we were racing the change in season. The amazing production team figured a way to make it happen. Sean cast Elizabeth Olsen as the lead, and John Hawkes and the rest of the very good cast fell into place.
Many extras were cast locally for scenes at both the farm and lake house. Shooting was scheduled for four weeks, and during that time I travelled back and forth between set, the editing room and my mom’s house, where I and my assistant editor Dean were living. For meals, we alternated between the Whistle Stop, Main Street Cafe, the Pizza Place and on-set catering. We visited Roasters a few times daily for coffee and we garnered quite a few looks when we sauntered into the Narrowsburg Inn for drinks late one Wednesday.
“Where you from?” the bartender asked.
“Here,” I answered. He looked confused.
Filming wrapped and I finished the first assembly of the film before packing the editing room back up (thanks again, Mom, for vacuuming) and moving back to the city to finish the film. On a tight editing schedule, Sean and I worked as fast as we could. Three months later, we premiered MMMM at Sundance. Sean won Best Director and Fox Searchlight picked it up before the end of the festival.
I am very much looking forward to seeing “Martha Marcy May Marlene” at the Callicoon Theater this coming weekend. I’ll be attending the Saturday evening screening. It’ll actually be the first time that I see it on film.
I should say that it’s not an easy film. It’s rated R, and definitely deals with some tough stuff. Nevertheless, it’s a film that will you make you think and talk. And it’s particularly fun knowing that it was shot right here in Sullivan County.