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The Arts

Craven ‘blown away’ by community support

A metaphorical barn raising for ‘Northern Borders,’ now filming in Windham County

BRATTLEBORO—Almost 200 people gathered at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center April 3 to financially support a movie about Vermont.

Addressing the boosters of the film Northern Borders, director and Marlboro film professor Jay Craven compared the event to an old-fashioned Vermont barn raising.

The film’s community liaison Dede Cummings agreed, saying, “We were completely blown away by the community support for this project.”

The event raised money for the Kingdom County Productions film currently in production in Marlboro, Guilford, West Chesterfield, N.H., and other area towns. Northern Borders is based on the novel of the same name by Vermont writer Howard Frank Mosher and stars Bruce Dern, Genevieve Bujold, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, and Jessica Hecht.

The independent film features 19 characters, scores of extras (many who are local), and an array of props and costumes that would have existed in 1950s Vermont. The production also works with the program Movies from Marlboro, in which students from Marlboro College and 12 other colleges and universities work on the film, earning on-the-job training in the film industry.

As Craven spoke before the lively crowd, he was visibly moved by the turnout, which included more than 175 patrons who pledged at least $50 to support the film.

He praised Brattleboro’s enthusiasm for his project.

“I am having a similar fundraiser in Burlington,” he explained. “I sent out 1,800 invitations in the mail there. But I was unsure what mailing list to use in Brattleboro. So I had the idea of getting The New Yorker mailing list. I spent $700 to find one, but for complicated reasons it didn’t work out. So here I am sitting on 1,800 invitations and I didn’t send out a single one. The only way people here got to know about the event was minimal newspaper press and word of mouth.

“Well, to make a long story short, even though I am well known there — after all, I produced Burlington’s 2009 film festival — in Burlington only 12 of the 1,800 responded to those invitations. While in Brattleboro, even though no invitations at all were mailed, we have almost 200 supports here tonight.”

He added that it may be rather irresponsible to start filming without having raised all the capital needed to complete the project. “But I have never done it any other way,” he said. The film had finished its second week of its five-week shooting schedule and Craven said contributions would see their dollars at work and on the screen “in record time.”

Based on Mosher’s award-winning coming-of-age story, Northern Borders tells the story of young Austen Kittredge, who is sent by his father to live on his grandparents’ Vermont farm. Here he experiences wild adventures and uncovers long-festering family secrets. This coming-of-age story “evokes Vermont’s wildness, its sublime beauty, a haunted past, and an aura of enchantment,” according the the production company’s description on its website.

Northern Borders is being produced by Kingdom County Productions, which has produced Craven’s previous films. But this film has introduced a partnership between the production company and Marlboro College.

Marlboro College president Ellen McCulloch-Lovell spoke at the Brattleboro Museum fundraiser. “An event like this makes me proud to be president of Marlboro,” she said. “This is an unusual collaboration with Marlboro and Kingdom County Productions.”

“Craven has given students a great opportunity for making film and making fundraisers such as this one,” she said, adding that half the professionals working on this film are Marlboro College alumni.

She also celebrated the collaboration between Craven and Mosher, who have worked together on several acclaimed films about Vermont. “Mosher is our state novelist,” she said. “He is the reporter of our life, of what makes Vermont special.”

She called both Craven and Mosher not only state but national treasures.

Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, 12, plays the leading role of Austen Kittredge. His career began when he was six months old when he played an infant on the television series Law and Order.

“Jay Craven is so much fun to work around,” Davey-Fitzpatrick told the crowd. “What a sweetheart! The work is rewarding and demanding, and I am really psyched. I mean this is my first starring role.”

Perhaps the most eagerly awaited guest of the evening, Academy Award nominated film star Bruce Dern, wanted to impress upon the film’s supporters the importance of independent films like Northern Borders, saying that they were the future and salvation of movies.

He shared his impressions of the area. “Brattleboro is really an incredible place,” he said, “even though half the bastards I run into don’t know who in the hell I am.

“[With Brattleboro] the film is in good hands,” Dern added. “This is a room full of the brightest faces I can ever remember seeing.” People may say Brattleboro is not academic, but I can tell you it certainly is an academic town. I went to Keene the other day and wondered if I was visiting where they shot The Stepford Wives.”

He also sang Craven’s praises: “I have only worked with three directors who made me every day want to hurry to start shooting because you just might do something you never have done before. Those directors are Alfred Hitchcock, Eli Kazan, and Jay Craven.”

Those interested in helping finance Northern Borders can visit www.northernbordersfilm.com. Contributions are tax-deductible.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #147 (Wednesday, April 11, 2012).

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