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Falls gets rave in NY Times

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Recorder/Paul Franz
A camera truck pulls the actors car during filming of "The Judge" across the Iron Bridge in Shelburne Falls.

Recorder/Paul Franz A camera truck pulls the actors car during filming of "The Judge" across the Iron Bridge in Shelburne Falls.

SHELBURNE FALLS — How well Shelburne Falls comes across in its movie roles as Holton Mills, N.H., and Carlinville, Ind., remains to be seen: But the village certainly got star treatment in Friday’s New York Times.

“On Location: A New England Village is Cast as the All-American Town” talks about how Hollywood has discovered Shelburne Falls and filmed two major motion pictures there within a year: Paramount Pictures’ “Labor Day,” filmed last June and starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin, and this summer’s Warner Bros. film “The Judge,” starring Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duval, and Vera Farmiga. “Labor Day” will be released to a few theaters on Christmas Day, while a release date for “The Judge” hasn’t yet been announced.

Sawyer News, a Bridge Street newsstand and stationery shop, sold out its 20 or so delivered copies of the Times “before we even opened,” said co-owner Michael Eller. “Everybody heard about the article, came out and bought a copy.”

Mary Vilbon, executive director of the Greater Shelburne Falls Area Business Association, learned early Friday morning that the article was in the Times. “I was on the phone with Ellen Eller (of Sawyer News) about 6 a.m., after the photographer (Nancy Palmeri) and Pat Ryan and Warner Bros. emailed me: ‘it’s out,’” said Vilbon.

Pat Ryan, the author of the article, grew up in Turners Falls and was a copy editor for The Recorder before she went to work for the New York Times.

“I think it was a great article,” said Vilbon. “It highlights the village. And I love the fact that they included directions on how to get here and where to eat.”

The New York Times last published an article about Shelburne Falls on Oct. 20. “We actually saw a positive effect from that,” Vilbon said. “People were calling. We were seeing an increase in our online activity.”

About Ryan, Vilbon said, “When I was being interviewed, it was great to hear that someone who was actually familiar with the area was writing it. I think that really helps with the story.”

Kenny Patel, owner of the Keystone Market, was delighted to know that his market and his “Shelburne Falls: Little Hollywood” T-shirts were mentioned in the Times. He immediately went across the street, to get a copy from Sawyer News, but they were sold out.

“It’s really great,” he said, as part of the article was read to him over the phone. “It’s good for the town, to be in the New York Times. I hope more people coming to the town will follow. I hope more people will be coming here next year, after the first movie (“Labor Day”) comes out in December.

When asked if people are buying the T-shirts, Patel said all 150 printed up last summer sold out — after the Keystone Market was used as a setting for “Labor Day.” He said he re-ordered another 150 T-shirts this year, which are also selling well.

The article says the “Little Hollywood” T-shirts “hung nonchalantly over the vegetable bins” — a line mentioned by Buckland Town Administrator Andrea Llamas, who liked the article.

“I read the article and I thought it was flattering,” she said. “I’m assuming most people would be happy to see (the village described) as a great place to come and see. It had some nice, homey touches, and it gave the feeling of a nice place to come and visit.”

Llamas said the article included “a lot of people doing most of their daily life” around the village. She said the line about the T-shirts says: “Yeah. We have this Hollywood thing going on, but it’s hanging right next to the vegetables.”

“We have this tourism boost, but it isn’t so far out of reach for the regular people, too.”

Nancy Dole, owner of Nancy Dole Books and Ephemera, learned about the article from her daughter, who lives in Harlem.

Dole said she was upset by the term “shabby chic,” which was used by one business owner to describe the village that Ryan characterized as a place where: “the local pharmacy and insurance agency (sit) cheek by jowl with the art galleries, and the outlet for Lamson & Goodnow ... across the bridge from Mocha Maya’s espresso bar.”

“I don’t know if I understand what the words ‘shabby chic’ mean, but I don’t have a positive image of that,” said Dole. “I do not feel that way about our town; I like to think of us as more genuine — which, in my head, is the opposite of shabby chic.”

“I feel we’re the real deal, and that’s our strength.”

Dole continued: “I don’t want us to ever lose a Shelburne Falls that serves its residents. We all, as businesses, work to promote the area. But it’s a fine line between promoting ourselves (to visitors) and losing our residents. You know the saying: be careful what you wish for.”

In the article, Ryan wrote: “In the last year, Hollywood has made Shelburne Falls the cinematic canvas for two movies,” adding, “Any morning, townsfolk could wake up in a Colonial village, the Wild West or even Indiana.”

Ryan went on to say that “Frank Capra could have chosen this area for his own picture of America in the classic Jimmy Stewart film ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’”

Massachusetts Film Office Director Lisa Strout was quoted as saying, “There is an authenticity to a place like Shelburne Falls that is unmistakable to a filmmaker, just as it is to a tourist.”

A link to the article is posted on the business association’s website:

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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