British company shoots film in Woodstock

12/04/04 12:00AM By Betty Smith-Mastaler



(Host) A British production company was in Woodstock this week to make a short, fifteen-minute feature film. VPR's Betty Smith visited the set to see what brought them all the way to Vermont.



(Sound from the film's set.)
"Okay, let's get quiet all around. Sound - you ready? Stand by. Okay, Greta, position please. And let's roll sound. Twenty-nine, Frank take two. Roll camera. Marker. Click. Action. . Cut. Cutting. That, that was perfect. Yeah, yeah. I think so. Great. You happy? Yeah. That's good."


(Smith) After what seems like an eternity of adjusting lights, moving cameras and checking set details, filming begins on a cramped landing at the door of a plain, no-frills, farmhouse bedroom.

There is no dialogue. The objective is simply to record a few seconds of a woman's facial expressions as she confronts a hired man.

All this week, an old house, red barn and farm shed in Woodstock became the set for the short film named for the man in that confrontation, "The Hired Hand."

Inside, it's a beehive of activity. This isn't a commercial venture. It's the first prize in an international film writing competition based in London. American Thomas Beech was the 2002 winner, and it's his short screenplay that is being produced.

It's about a woman on an isolated farm and the man she hires to help with the work. In a scant 14 pages, the two characters become substantial. There is mystery, passion and a satisfying twist at the end.

It's more like a short story than a feature film, and as such it's more likely to be seen at film festivals than your local multiplex.

Nevertheless, this project boasts a crew of 20 or more technicians, one of Britain's best young directors, Simon Rumley, and an up-and-coming New York TV and film actor, Bill Sage. Also on the set is Greta Scacchi, whose film credits include "Presumed Innocent," "The Player" and "The Odyssey." She says that the Vermont setting suits the story.

(Scacchi) "This is my first visit. It's just breathtaking because, you know, from England, we tend to think of America as, because of the kind of television and the films we see, very modern, urban. And to come and find these dimensions, these distances of unspoiled nature is really, it's really striking and this house feels just perfect. You don't see another house, just trees, very remote. It's perfect."

(Smith) For a week, the old house was transformed as the crew tramped up and down the stairs and interior shots were completed.

The exterior shots waited until the other reason this location was chosen finally arrived to complete the perfect setting - some snow on the ground.

For Vermont Public Radio, I'm Betty Smith.


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