Lake Pleasant a star in new film
‘Bridge of Names’ showing today at Northampton Film Festival
LAKE PLEASANT — It may be the Northampton Film Festival, but when the Academy of Music’s curtains part this afternoon, it will be this tiny Montague village that’s center stage for one of the 17th annual festival’s entries.
What else would you expect for a film called “Bridge of Names,” made by a New York couple with long ties to the area?
The film — the first for Peter Hobbs and Elizabeth Foley, who met as college students in the Pioneer Valley in the 1980s — has many of its scenes shot in Lake Pleasant, the home of the Bridge of Names, as well as Turners Falls, Millers Falls and Montague Center, and at Baystate Franklin Medical Center and the old Franklin County Jail in Greenfield.
And cast members include Court Dorsey of Wendell and Linda McInerney of Deerfield, along with Hollywood film actor Rip Torn.
Foley, who attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and then Smith College, and Hampshire College graduate Hobbs live in New York, where they run Elyria Pictures, a film production company, and Foley teaches media studies at Queens College.
“Bridge of Names,” to be shown today at 2:10 p.m. as part of the three-day festival, was inspired by their close Northampton friend, Alan Arenius, who died of melanoma in 2007, and was described by Foley as a “visionary,” on whom the Dorsey character, Brother Will, is based. Arenius had been an actor who worked at Pleasant Street Video along with his friend Bill Dwight, who is the Northampton City Council president and portrays a police chief in the film.
After starting to make a short film in 2006 with Dorsey, whom Foley had known from her time in the area, and with then 15-year-old Rachel Zeiger-Haag, who plays a lead romantic role and who attended Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School, the couple was convinced to turn their 30-page script into their full-length film.
A difficulty in shooting the film was in finding an actor to portray the father of the lead teenage male character. Fortunately for Foley and Hobbs, Torn, who’d played in the films “Men in Black,” “Easy Rider” and a host of other Hollywood movies, was familiar with them from reading a script they tried to produce as a film earlier.
McInerney, artistic director of Old Deerfield Productions, plays a doctor in the film and “was one of the best things that happened to us,” said Foley, in part because she worked so well with Torn.
“They hit it off like gangbusters,” she said.
Shooting resumed in the summer of 2007, after Foley and Hobbs had stumbled on Lake Pleasant while driving around the area.
“Once we went there, we came to the end of the road and walked across that bridge and thought, ‘Oh, my God! This must be some kind of memorial, so we just made up a story in our minds, and we incorporated Lake Pleasant and that idea into the story. Once we started scouting there, we realized it was perfect, because it’s so beautiful, and so weird.”
They spent three days filming in and around the village, she said.
Dwight, who helped scout locations for filming “Bridge of Names,” told the Daily Hampshire Gazette that when he went to Turners Falls one day to be filmed, he was dressed as an officer and drove a borrowed Ford Crown Victoria, a vehicle often used as an unmarked police car.
“Between that and the uniform, I could sense the unease I was generating in all the cars around me,” he said.
Foley, who also wrote the screenplay, says that more than 100 residents helped put the film together, working as cast members, crew members and advisers.
“Bridge of Names,” which was also shot in Northampton, Granby and other towns, won four awards, including best picture, best cinematography and best photography, at the Long Island Film Festival in August, when it was shown in “preview” mode.
“This needed a western Mass. premiere, where it was made,” said Foley.
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