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Enthusiastic audience finds much to cheer during preview screening of ‘Labor Day’

SHELBURNE FALLS — The 400 people who filled every available seat in the Memorial Hall Theater Sunday afternoon to watch a preview showing of “Labor Day” had mostly seen part of the filming when the cast and crew were in Shelburne Falls during the summer of 2012.

Now they were seeing the fruit of all that labor.

A preview screening was held for invited guests as a “thank you” to the towns of Buckland, Shelburne, Montague and Belchertown, where scenes of the movie were filmed. After the invited guests were seated, others on a waiting list were let into the preview showing. A wide release of the movie is set for Jan. 31.

The first thunderous audience cheer came as people recognized the Turners Falls Power Canal — one of the local settings used to create the fictional Holbrook Mills, N.H. A view of Shelburne Falls’ Iron Bridge came into focus just a minute later.

The love story, starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin, was dark and dramatic, but it didn’t stop the audience from cheering whenever they spotted Buckland’s Red Gate Farm, the Keystone Market or even the old facade of Shelburne Falls’ Greenfield Savings Bank.

“I have to say, it was very nice to watch a movies where you know where everything is,” said Buckland Selectman Cheryl L. Dukes. “It’s a whole different experience. I was thinking about all the work that went into making it here. Your setting gives you the whole, big picture. And, to be with your community watching a movie that took place in your community is just sort of fabulous.”

Holly Sonntag of The Blue Rock Restaurant and Cafe said she thought the movie was a great “tear-jerker.”

“I loved how everyone was clapping whenever they recognized something,” she said.

Those who came to the showing included merchants whose shops were filmed in some of the scenes, local production assistants and government officials.

Lisa Strout, director of the Massachusetts Film Office, came from Boston to introduce the film and to thank the local community for its cooperation. She also praised Mary Vilbon, director of the Greater Shelburne Falls Area Business Association, for doing a lot of the groundwork for bringing film crews to Shelburne Falls.

“These towns have been fantastic hosts over the last couple of years,” she said.

Strout said she had first seen the movie about a week ago and believes the movie will bring more attention to the region. “The cast is world class,” she remarked. “In terms of the (film) industry, it’s very word-of-mouth,” she said. “This is so clearly the Northeast. It has the light, it has the architecture. There’s nothing better than to shoot movies in the actual environment,” she said. “This is clearly a place that draws filmmakers.”

Several people who worked on the film in Shelburne Falls and in Franklin County celebrated after the preview at Baker’s Oven. Among them was Josh Slates, assistant location manager for “Labor Day” during filming. “It was a wonderful and gratifying experience,” he said after the film was shown.

Local filmmaker Tony Scelsi of Ashfield brought his family to the preview so that they could see his work.

Scelsi, a Mohawk graduate, went on to Greenfield Community College, and then on to New York University to study filmmaking. After graduating from the film program in 2011, he came back to his hometown, hoping to ply his trade here.

“The rural setting up here has always been the most inspiring,” he said.

Scelsi was a production assistant for “Labor Day” and “The Judge,” which was filmed in the area this summer. Scelsi most recently worked on the Academy Award-nominated film “American Hustle.”

Scelsi pointed out that “Labor Day” film director Jason Reitman loves the area and uses his small-town film settings as if they were characters themselves.

“In general, I think everybody will be happy to see the way the towns are represented,” said Scelsi.

This was a terrific event. So much fun to watch in SF with our community. Thanks Paramount, Mass Film Bureau, and especially Mary Vilbon, Shelburne Falls Area Business Assn, and Fred DeVecca and the volunteers from Pothole Films (who ushed and ran concessions) for making this happen.

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