The Upper Delaware Valley has been an entertainment destination for decades, and having once flirted with Hollywood, the film industry recently returned to the region in the form of “Praise and Blame,” a short film shot entirely on location in the Catskills, wrapping production here on November 7. (Just so you know: In 1912, one of the first silent movies ever made in the U.S., “A Feud in the Kentucky Hills,” was filmed in the Catskill region. D.W. Griffith brought his troupe of 40 actors to Milford, PA to utilize the local terrain. The troupe stayed at the Sawkill House in Milford and used locations overlooking the Delaware River in Sullivan County, NY and used many local extras.)
In an effort to renew interest in movie making in the area, the recently formed Catskill Film Commission (CFC) (www.catskillfilm.com ) attracted the attention of producer Dita Gruze, who arrived two weeks ago with crew at her side, to join forces with co-producer Tibor Feldman of Cochecton, NY. Writer/director Shane Book and leading man Costas Mandylor (“Sex and the City,” “The Doors,” and several “Saw” movies), along with fellow actors Paul Collins (“The Good Wife” and “Without a Trace”), Bridget McKevitt and Alberto Bonilla (“Law & Order,” “All my Children” and “The Sopranos”) set up shop with the company and got down to business, quickly transforming the Tusten Theatre in Narrowsburg into a sound stage, filming several scenes with Mandylor.
CFC representative Troy Bystrom was on set at the Tusten Theatre and arranged for an interview with Feldman to speak briefly about how the production came to town. “Once I found myself involved with ‘Praise and Blame’, it seemed like a natural to have them shoot the movie here, where I’ve lived for 40 years,” he explained, “so I suggested it. The film, which had been in pre-production for more than a year, takes place in and around a university, and the story didn’t happen here, but we brought it here. Everyone at the CFC has been incredible and our cast and crew are working around the clock to bring this fabulous script to life.”
The plot of the movie revolves around Mandylor’s character, Victor, who is an “internationally renowned poet and has just arrived as a special guest of a wealthy university. Having served 15 years in jail for writing poetry critical of the president of his native country, Victor figures his stint in America as visiting writer-in-residence will be an easy gig, but an encounter with a burglar sends him on a surprising journey that forces him to reassess his core beliefs.”
Although Mandylor was working in front of the camera non-stop, co-star Bonilla also had a few minutes to chat. “When I first read the script,” he shared, “I was struck by the humor, but caught completely unawares by the twist.” Winking, Bonilla continued, “No, I will not give it away, but it’s safe to say that people will be talking about the surprise ending for years to come. This movie is about many things, including false impressions, the intellectual elite and secrets—deep, dark secrets.”
Post production is currently being done in New York City, and when completed, “Praise and Blame” is slated for competition in various independent film festivals where, “if all goes well,” it will be picked up for distribution and made into a full- length feature film. For more information on the Catskill Film Commission, visit their web site or call production consultant Bystrom at 646/236-3400.