Did you happen to notice the “new” used bookstore on Church Street? It’s got a pale-pink sign announcing “Vivien’s Used Books? And did you by chance notice the 30-or-so men and women milling around inside and outside of the “new” store holding 35mm cameras, with lights, sound equipment, dollies and a fire-engine red Porsche convertible that scooted up and down the block from 11 a.m. until midnight this past Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday? Well, for three days and nights last week a German/American TV crew was filming the latest in the German Sunday family-movie series of the Romance novels of Katie Fforde that are shown on National television channel ZDF. All of Fforde’s stories-into-movies focus on the lead character (usually a woman) overcoming obstacles to achieve a dream. Each film runs for 90 commercial-free minutes.
So who is this Katie with the weirdly spelled last name (it’s pronounced FORD) and why are they filming her novels in New Paltz? First-off, Fforde is a hugely popular middle-aged pulp writer (think Barbara Cartland) from Gloucestershire in merry old England, and whose books have been translated into Czech, Danish, Dutch, Estonian, French, Italian, Polish, Norwegian, Swedish and of course, German. And for the last three Summers a German film crew (Net Work Movie out of Hamburg) under the guidance of production manager Paul VanWormer out of Orlando, Florida has been filming up and down the mid-Hudson. And to keep it even more local the location manager is one Katherine “Kat” Delaney-Vermilye…name sound familiar? (husband: Jamie, son of long-time Town Councilperson Kitty Brown and the late environmentalist, Steve Vermilye).
“We shoot three movies each Summer and last year we were at the Water Street Market, Minnewaska and on the Rail Trail, and Katie Fforde came along. She loved it here, said it reminded her of Surrey (a county in England),” said Kat, whose assistant location manager, Gina Reznitsky — who she met on the set of TV show “Nurse Jackie” — is also from the area. “We know New Paltz, so we recommended it to Paul and he just loved it too; how it looks, the friendly people, and it’s worked out really well. Next week we’ll be in Red Hook, which I scouted on Tuesday.”
Poughkeepsie native Christy Cappolino has been in seven of the “Katie Fforde’s”, booked through the New York Talent Agency. “I even had a line in one,” said Cappolino, who is usually an extra for background scenes. The films are in German, so the English spoken by the local actors like Cappolino is dubbed in. Most of the non-technical American crew is also from the area, including a few SUNY-New Paltz students.
And as for Vivien’s Used Books (the story centered on a book-store owner with that name), owner of Barner Books’ David Freedman was only too happy to change the name for a few days. “It was a few days off for me and I was really excited that they used the store for the film. To show it off, and to show off New Paltz. It was all to the good, the highlight of my Summer.”
So there it is. A German TV movie filmed on Church Street. Next, as New Paltz develops its international film cred: a film about the Russian Revolution shot on the steps of the Elting library by a crew from Tobago. Ahhhhhhh…fame!