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Traveling to the past to build a future

Florida film crew shoots indie ‘Scarlet Letter’ in Greenfield yard

  • A scene from “The Scarlet Letter” being filmed in Greenfield on Thursday.    Recorder/Paul Franz

    A scene from “The Scarlet Letter” being filmed in Greenfield on Thursday. Recorder/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »

  • At a break in filming soundman Joshua Berry, cameraman Stephen Berry, cameraman Alex Masella and director Elizabeth Berry discuss filming of The Scarlet Letter in Greenfield on Thursday.  Recorder/Paul Franz

    At a break in filming soundman Joshua Berry, cameraman Stephen Berry, cameraman Alex Masella and director Elizabeth Berry discuss filming of The Scarlet Letter in Greenfield on Thursday. Recorder/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »

  • A scene from “The Scarlet Letter” being filmed in Greenfield on Thursday.    Recorder/Paul Franz
  • At a break in filming soundman Joshua Berry, cameraman Stephen Berry, cameraman Alex Masella and director Elizabeth Berry discuss filming of The Scarlet Letter in Greenfield on Thursday.  Recorder/Paul Franz

GREENFIELD — In the woods off Bernardston Road, behind a modern home, a wooden gallows and pillory darkly looms. Farther into the backyard, a muddy trail leads to a little cottage where the owner awaits her punishment for committing adultery while her village neighbors walk to and fro dressed in their colonial garb.

The Greenfield home is the scene of the brutal shunning of a Massachusetts woman, sentenced to wearing a scarlet letter A.

Except it isn’t real.

For 10 days, an amateur independent film crew from Florida has been filming their version of “The Scarlet Letter,” an American classic written by Nathaniel Hawthorne set in 17th-century Puritan Boston. It is the story of Hester Prynne, who conceives a daughter through an adulterous affair and is sentenced to wear the letter A on her chest by her Puritan community.

The film, titled “The Scarlet Letter: Risen Light Films” is being created by a group of 21 young actors, producers, and designers — 12 of whom are from Florida and mostly in their teens and early 20s.

Filming started on May 16 and is on deadline to finish Sunday. The goal is to finish in 10 days.

The film is set behind the home of Christine Johnson of 1039 Bernardston Road. A longtime family friend of the director’s mother, Johnson willingly opened the doors to her home for the filming. She also helped the crew find houses to stay in during the filming and scenes around Franklin County to catch on camera.

“It’s been a blast,” said Johnson, who is an extra in the film. “We’re used to sharing our home. We’re glad to do it.”

Since “The Scarlet Letter” takes place in Massachusetts, 19-year-old director Elizabeth Berry wanted to film as much as possible on location in the state.

While most of the filming is done in Johnson’s backyard, other scenes were shot at the Indian House museum in Old Deerfield.

The film is somewhat of a family project with Berry, who has had an interest in making films since she was 11, serving as director; her brother, Stephen Berry, 23, as producer; and her sister, Ruth Berry, 21, as costume designer.

The film is a first try at a feature-length production for most of the college-age crew.

Stephan Jammer, 21, of Florida, is set designer. He recently graduated from Florida A&M University as an architect major. The film is helping to launch his career in set design.

Jesse Johnson, son of Christine, is also working as an apprentice for Stephen Berry to compose music.

For her first film role, Molly Wilson, 19, of Florida, is playing Prynne. Wilson has performed in theater for about eight years.

While the film is the first major project for many of the college students, Berry was confident in the end quality of the movie.

Berry, a social work major at Florida State University, intends the film to follow the plot of Hawthorne’s book.

“I really like the storyline. I want to share a story of God’s forgiveness, which I feel is very strong in this book,” Berry said. “I feel like what he wrote is great as is. We wanted to be accurate to the history of what he wrote.”

Once the film is complete, Berry plans to submit it to film festivals and companies for possible distribution.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at: kmckiernan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ext. 268 On Twitter, follow @RecorderKatMcK

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