Now that New York State tax law has been tweaked to give filmmakers a bigger tax incentive to shoot scenes in Hudson Valley locations, news of productions underway in our region are becoming commonplace occurrences. And we’re beginning to see the results. If you watched the Super Bowl, you probably saw the latest trailer for A Quiet Place, starring John Krasinski and Emily Blunt, and may have recognized that farm just outside New Paltz or that footbridge on the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail. Moreover, the recent Sundance Film Festival – often a precursor of big-screen success – conferred two of its most prestigious awards upon movies produced in our neck of the woods.
For fiction features, the most coveted plum at Sundance, the Palme D’Or of the Wasatch Mountains, is the Grand Jury Prize (US Dramatic). Considered the most influential award on the US independent circuit, the Grand Jury Prize is a reliable marker of future potential, with recent winners including Whiplash, Fruitvale Station and Beasts of the Southern Wild. This year it goes to Desiree Akhavan’s cinematic interpretation of Emily M. Danforth’s 2012 coming-of-age novel The Miseducation of Cameron Post: the story of a teenage girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) who is outed as a lesbian and sent to a gay “conversion therapy” center by her evangelical aunt.
Though the book is set in the author’s native Montana, the movie was largely shot in the Hudson Valley with assistance from the Hudson Valley Film Commission. High school scenes were filmed at Coxsackie High School, and other scenes in Saugerties and Catskill. Sasha Lane, Forrest Goodluck and John Gallagher, Jr., co-star, and local extras were cast by Heidi Eklund of Hudson Valley Casting.
Another prize presented at Sundance that always bears watching is the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award; past recipients have included Memento, The Squid and the Whale, The Station Agent, Winter’s Bone, In a World… and The Skeleton Twins. This year, the winner is Christina Choe’s Nancy, produced in the Hudson Valley last January. The film follows a young woman (Andrea Riseborough) with a habit for spinning fantastical stories around her quiet life as a temp. When she sees a report on TV about parents whose daughter was abducted years prior, the photofit of what she might look like today looks similar enough to Nancy that she reaches out to them. The film also features part-time Hudson Valley residents John Leguizamo and Steve Buscemi.