Local parents, kids produce short films through new Greenfield Movie Club

  • Vanessa Query, founder of the Greenfield Movie Club, and her son Desmond Arnold, 8, walk down Main Street while filming in Greenfield. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • Desmond Arnold, 8, films while walking downtown in Greenfield with his mother Vanessa Query, who founded the Greenfield Movie Club. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • Vanessa Query, founder of the Greenfield Movie Club, and her son Desmond Arnold, 8, walk down Main Street in Greenfield while filming. Desmond came up with the idea for the club, Query says, as a way to make movies with some of their new friends. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • “I really like filming random stuff, super random times to film,” says 8-year-old Greenfield resident Desmond Arnold, who is a member of the Greenfield Movie Club. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • Vanessa Query, founder of the Greenfield Movie Club, and her son Desmond Arnold, 8, walk down Main Street while filming in Greenfield. Staff Photo/Dan Little

Staff Writer
Published: 4/3/2019 5:51:22 PM

Vanessa Query sought a creative, open-minded place to raise her son, and found what she was looking for when she moved to Franklin County. She had grown familiar with the region visiting friends, and was taken by its progressive culture and strong network of artists.

A couple years after settling in the region, Query gathered together some neighbors, some film equipment and her own screenplay to establish the Greenfield Movie Club, whereby local families produce short films, including its debut film, “Alienation.”

Filmmaking isn’t new to Query, who spent much of her 20s living in the small, creative town of Yellow Springs, Ohio. After graduating from Antioch College, Query worked odd jobs in Yellow Springs — as a movie projectionist and as the events manager at a cafe — while working on her own creative projects. On the side, she wrote comedic sketches, made short films and even established the Yellow Springs film festival, which ran for two years. Among short films Query made were “Love Conquers All,” a dark comedy about a stalker, and “Awkward Hugs: An Investigative Report,” a relatable satire that coined and depicted a variety of stilted embraces. Nowadays, Query works as marketing coordinator for Greenfield’s Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center, and does some creative freelance work on the side.

The Greenfield Movie Club is one way for Query to return to filmmaking, and introduce the medium to her 8-year-old son, Desmond Arnold. Desmond came up with the idea for the club, she said, as a way to make movies with some of their new friends.

While a keen actor, she hopes the club will encourage her son to become interested in other aspects of filmmaking as well. Desmond tried his hand at filming for the first time during the making of “Alienation.”

“I really like filming random stuff, super random times to film,” Desmond said. He especially likes using the zoom feature.

“That was my very first time filming anything,” Desmond said of making “Alienation.”

“Alienation,” which Query directed and produced, is the club’s first and only original film so far. It is set to screen Thursday, April 11, at 7 p.m. at The Rendezvous, 78 3rd St. in Turners Falls.

The club is also a way to bring Greenfield families together, Query said. So far, the group is composed of seven local families, who Query contacted via phone and email. While Query admits making friends in her 30s isn’t always easy, she has managed to cultivate a network in Greenfield by meeting parents at the school gate, play dates and birthday parties.

“There’s an age that you hit when it’s hard,” Query said. “I had my son at 30. I wasn’t sure if it was being 30 or having a kid, but suddenly it was hard to make new friends.”

The first day of filming “Alienation” was Nov. 1, the day after Halloween. Children wore their Halloween costumes and Query ordered pizza for dinner.

“That was part of the deal — come to the house, and you don’t have to deal with dinner that night,” Query said.

“Alienation” is about an alien, played by 8-year-old Beatrice Mickus, who is lost and trying to find its way home. The alien asks for help from humans along the way, without much luck.

“Trying to get help from the dominant sentient population (i.e. humans), the alien manages only to scare everyone away with their bizarre look and their bizarre language,” Query writes in a news release. “Will the alien ever find their way home?”

Part of the attraction of the film, Query said, is its location, in Greenfield and Turners Falls, featuring several town landmarks including Poet’s Seat Tower and the Railroad Salvage building. Query believes locals will find it exciting to see their hometown in a movie, as it isn’t often a film is shot in their backyard.

“I just think it’s cool to see that, and to have it also just be accessible to people. You can do this, too,” Query said.

Filmmaking is not generally seen as easy for the average person, Query said, compared to other art forms like painting and music. She hopes screening a homemade film will show locals that movies can be made by anyone.

“You don’t see movies that aren’t really polished,” Query said. “I like the idea that that’s OK. I’m just trying to make something fun.”

Club members each contributed different skills — shooting, acting, sewing and more — during the filmmaking process. Christopher Jenke, who Query knew after participating in a fashion show he threw a couple years ago, offered some feedback as the movie was being edited. Jenke also offered up the bar he co-owns, The Rendezvous, for the screening. He and his children played minor roles in “Alienation.”

The next movie has yet to be determined, Jenke said; however, some ideas are currently being tossed around, and club members will take the children’s interests into account.

“It’s centered around the kids,” Jenke said. “We’re making it with their input.”

Making a short film with children is no small feat, and while Query said the process was mostly enjoyable, she admitted there were some scheduling challenges. Next time, Query said she’ll maximize filming sessions by starting earlier in the day.

She also hopes to upgrade her equipment to improve the quality of picture and sound. However, in all, the film came out well, she said. It wasn’t intended to appear like a Hollywood picture, but was meant to be an opportunity for families to do a creative activity together.

As for the club’s future, Query hopes to expand its functions beyond filmmaking. She plans to host regular meetings where members share ideas and resources, and offer feedback to one another.

Asked whether she would host a Greenfield Movie Festival, like the one in Ohio, Query appeared hopeful. “Yeah, absolutely,” she said.

The April 11 premiere of “Alienation” at The Rendezvous is free to attend. The event will include a screening of the film and a question-and-answer session with cast and crew. Donations will be accepted to fund future film projects by the group.

View the “Alienation” trailer at bit.ly/2YM0dub. For more information on the movie visit vanessaquery.com/alienation. For more information on the club, visit the Facebook page at facebook.com/greenfieldmovieclub.

Grace Bird started working at the Greenfield Recorder this year covering West County. She can be reached at gbird@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ext. 280.


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