When you’re in the creative biz biz, you never know where the biz will come from. This summer, in a most unexpected way, it came in the form of film production. For all of July and August and a bit beyond, I was quite literally immersed as Production Supervisor and Press & Media person for an indie feature film called THE NORTH STAR. Based on true events of 1848, The North Star tells the story of Big Ben Jones, a slave who escapes a plantation in Virginia, heads north, and lands in Bucks County, PA, where he gets helped by Quakers. There is much more to it than that, and writer/director Thomas Phillips wrote a compelling script to continue the story. Working on the film was an amazing and memorable experience. The footage looks gorgeous thanks to the talented Director of Photography Keiko Nakahara and the support of an incredibly hard working crew. Along with the cast of both national and local note, we ended up about 100 strong, with countless trucks, RV’s, cars, gators, lights, cameras and much action, moving throughout Bucks County, shooting on location at 14 scenic spots in just 24 days. The demands in film production are high, and we worked many long days and nights to make it all happen. My friends and family didn’t see or hear much from me in the time of pre-production and production as I was working 14-18 hour days, 6 or 7 days a week. But the opportunity to take part in something like this right here in Bucks County, and to have it be about such a historic and important and pivotal time in our history was unmatched. Our cast is stellar as well. Leading man is none other than former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, who was a humble and talented member of the film team. Trotter was great on the set and on camera, and worked tirelessly to authentically bring the character of Big Ben Jones to the screen. Alongside Trotter was Big Ben Jones’ friend and fellow runaway, Moses Hopkins, played by Thomas C. Bartley, Jr. We also had John Diehl (Pearl Harbor, Jurassic Park III, Stargate, Mo’ Money), Lynn Whitfield (HBO’s Josephine Baker Story), Clifton Powell (Ray, Norbert, Rush Hour, Friday After Next), April Woodall (Broadway actress and vocalist), Keith David (Platoon, Crash, The Thing, ATL), and Alana Lee.
There’s lots more to share, like getting the Newtown Theatre as a location for the scene with Frederick Douglass and the symbolism that Frederick Douglass actually spoke there, or the amazing serendipitous tale of how I ended up casting John Diehl for the role of Master Anderson, or how our awesome horse wrangler Stephanie was able to book a slew of horses in short time, or how our illustrious Production Designer Norm Dodge and his masterful Art Department created miracles practically overnight, or how I arranged for blues singer Guy Davis to play banjo in a scene, and managed to acquire the correct period appropriate banjo, and on and on including the amazing weather we had, but it’ll keep. The next phase is editing and post production, so stay tuned. More stories in the weeks to come, as I continue to emerge from the cocoon of movie making land. Oh, did I mention Hunter the set dog?