Thanks in large part to the efforts of the folks at the Hudson Valley Film Commission, the mid-Hudson Valley has become an ever-more-attractive cluster of locations for shooting movies, whether big-budget or indie. In fact, 2013 was a record-setting year for local feature film production. Now another record is about to be broken as five locally shot, independently produced fiction features are on their way to their world premieres at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah later this month.
While Steven Spielberg’s 2012 epic Lincoln examined the 16th president in the context of the group of influential men surrounding him during the debates over the 13th Amendment, it also offered a tantalizing glimpse into his complex marriage with the emotionally fragile Mary Todd. But what about the other women who helped shaped his character – notably his mother, Nancy Hanks, his stepmother, Sarah Bush Johnston, and his first love who died young, Ann Rutledge? A. J. Edwards’ new black-and-white historical drama The Better Angels, set in the Indiana wilderness in 1817 but partially shot on the Mohonk Preserve, should help to answer some of those intriguing questions. Jason Clarke, Diane Kruger, Brit Marling and Wes Bentley star, and Terrence Malick is one of the producers.
Indiana, maybe; but can Ulster County pass for Texas? Jim Mickle’s pulpy Western revenge mystery Cold in July, starring Michael C. Hall, Don Johnson, Sam Shepard, Vinessa Shaw, Nick Damici and Wyatt Russell, was largely shot in Kingston, Woodstock and Esopus. Woodstocker Liv Tyler appears in Carter Smith’s supernatural thriller Jamie Marks Is Dead, shot in Parksville, Liberty, Middletown, Mongaup Valley, Bloomingburg, Monticello, Woodbourne, Goshen, New Hamburg and Fort Montgomery. Based on the novel One for Sorrow by Christopher Barzak, Jamie Marks Is Dead concerns two teenagers in a small town who are haunted by the ghost of a bullied classmate.
Also Sundance-bound is David Cross’s comedy Hits, in which a paranoid upstate municipal worker becomes improbably famous when videos of his rants at the Sullivan County Office Building in Monticello go viral online. The cast includes Julia Stiles, Michael Cera, Jason Ritter, David Koechner, Meredith Hagner, Matt Walsh, Amy Carlson, James Adomian, Jake Cherry, Derek Waters and Wyatt Cenac. Finally there’s Mike Cahill’s tale of love and science I Origins, filmed in Dutchess County. Starring Michael Pitt, Brit Marling, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Steven Yeun and Archie Panjabi, it concerns a Molecular Biology grad student with a specialty in eye evolution who pursues a romantic obsession with a masked woman based solely upon a photograph that he has taken of her eyes.
The 2014 Sundance Film Festival runs from January 16 to 26; see https://filmguide.sundance.org for details For more information on these and other movies already shot or on deck to be produced in the region, visit the Hudson Valley Film Commission website at www.hudsonvalleyfilmcommission.org.