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Coming Soon to a Theater Near You

Photograph courtesy of Barbara Rottier

On March 29 a dark, violent saga starring Eva Mendez, Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper opens in Los Angeles and New York theaters, with widespread release set for April. The Place Beyond the Pines follows a motorcycle daredevil (Gosling) through a turbulent transition to bank thief; his getaway skills prove useful in supporting his wife (Mendez) and child. He encounters an idealistic young policeman (Cooper) who bucks rampant corruption on the force and has political aspirations. Their lives collide in a fatal shootout. The drama’s third act puts the cop’s and robber’s sons together.

The title refers to Schenectady, and for three months in 2011 scenes were shot downtown. But for a true woodsy atmosphere the camera crew and sound technicians settled at Barbara Rottier’s farm in Vermontville. Gosling and Cooper were not on location but Rottier’s farmhouse, with its Whiteface Mountain panorama, provided the sweeping backdrop for numerous segments.

Rottier says when a young actor walked up her driveway to the farmhouse “they did about seven takes of this scene. He was dressed as if it was a cold fall day, but it was quite warm….. and they did not want him to look warm after all that walking back and forth! One of the workers, a young female intern from Plattsburgh State, had as part of her duties the job of keeping him cool by holding an umbrella over him for shade between takes.”

Photograph courtesy of Barbara Rottier

While many movies now use digital technology exclusively, this one relied on a 35mm format. Rottier says, “The camera man was from England, a very friendly guy. They were using a huge film camera. There was a portable light-tight tent and it was the job of one woman to take the film from the camera and transfer it to a different light-tight canister. She did this using the tent, which had gloves built into it so she could work on getting the film out of one canister and into another without it being exposed to light.”

A neighbor’s old barn appears in the film, and a heavily laden potato truck trundles down Norman Ridge Road for authenticity. The work went on for more than a month. Rottier says, “At the end of the filming they stuck around on the ridge for a bit to watch the sunset, which happened to be spectacular. The cameraman filmed it, and the horizon in the distance over the fields was a narrow stand of evergreens, so that each tree’s outline showed in the sunset. They might use those shots to emphasize ‘the place beyond the pines.’”

This current feature is by no means the only big cinematic project in the Adirondacks these days. New York State’s tax credits for filmmaking draw from a pool of  $420 million to cover up to 30 percent of the costs for facilities, sets and production—just about anything that enables traveling far from major cities to shoot.

Indie director and Sundance darling Ari Gold added local talent and landmarks in Blue Mountain Lake when he shot what he called Begin the Beguine in summer 2012. (The film may have another title when it’s released in 2014.) Rory Culkin is leading man, and many Indian Lake high-schoolers were in scenes on the lake and around a bonfire. Gold is no stranger to Blue Mountain Lake; his family owns Crane Point Lodge.

Last fall Tupper Lake stood in for Quebec—with bilingual stop signs, a Canadian flag in a shop window and fake provincial license plates on cars—for Almost Christmas, which stars Paul Giamatti and Paul Rudd. The pair are French-Canadian con men, with a scheme to sell Christmas trees in Manhattan. It could be Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with an accent, eh?

Rudd did not make it to town, though his costar lunched with the mayor at Little Italy. Giamatti walked the streets of Tupper Lake as the camera rolled.

In late February the shuttered Big Tupper Ski Area was transformed into a beehive of activity for a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles epic. With Paramount as distributor and a hefty budget, a tractor trailer tumbling over a cliff (local loggers were asked if their cable skidders might be able to belay the truck) and a big SUV chase on wintry slopes are just a couple of the scenes in production here. Tupper youngsters may be disappointed that Transformers star Megan Fox won’t be around, and Turtle fans will have to wait until June 2014 for release.

Mutant teenagers—on the big screen, anyway—aren’t alien to Tupper Lake. In 2009 scenes for Recreator were filmed locally, and the State Theater showed the final cut in 2011.

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