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The Making of “The Man at the Counter” – Part I

September 11, 2011

The short film The Man at the Counter was shot in September and October, 2010, primarily in and around the town of Hudson, New York. This is a brief account of the making of the film, illustrated by some of the photos I took on location as one of the film’s production still photographers.

It all started as a poem written by playwright Rebecca Sue Haber. When director Brian McAllister read the poem, he immediately suggested that it would make a great script for a short film. It had a moving story that could be vividly told in a series of visually captivating scenes. Rebecca set to work converting the poem into a film script, and thus The Man at the Counter was born.

In the film, a man of about 30 tells about a life-changing experience he had when he was 16, while working one summer behind the counter of a local cafe. The 30-year-old man is played by actor Tom Everett Scott, who appears at the beginning of the film and tells the story by reciting the poem in a voiceover. As he speaks, the scenes that he describes are played out on the screen. The man as a 16-year-old boy is played by Ian Hyland, and another main character, an elderly man, is played by Bill McHugh. The old man comes into the cafe each day and orders a cup of plain coffee. Each time, he snatches a handful of sugar packets on his way out.  In the course of the film, the boy learns the reason for this strange behavior, and learns a lesson about life and love as well. The surprise ending gives the film its powerful message.

Director McAllister chose Hudson over several other contenders for a number of reasons: it has the look of a classic old American town; it has a beautiful main street — Warren Street — with a cafe — The Cascades — that was a perfect fit for the story; it was reasonably close to New York City and Fairfield, Connecticut, where most of the actors and crew lived; and he had the invaluable assistance and cooperation of Bob Lucke, the owner of the cafe, and Richard Scalera, the mayor of Hudson. On the first morning of shooting, the block of Warren Street on which the cafe is located was closed to traffic for several hours to facilitate the shooting of the initial scenes, which take place on the street outside the cafe.

On that first day of shooting, the crew began setting up the equipment at the end of the block at dawn. Photos in a previous posting in this blog show how Warren Street and the The Cascades looked that day in the early morning light (click on the names to see photos). In this shot, cinematographer Dennis Donovan (in the red shirt) and assistant Phil Toran set up the Red One digital cinema camera – the current state of the art in digital cinema technology – while producer Bob Cammisa looks on (click on any photo to enlarge):

Here is director Brian McAllister instructing actor Ian Hyland on exactly where to ride his bicycle down the street to the cafe:

This shot shows Ian being prepped for the first day of shooting by hair and makeup artist Candice Crawford:

Here is Ian in motion on his bicycle at another location a few miles outside of Hudson:

In this photo, with the Red One mounted on rails, director and crew struggle to keep pace with Ian as he streaks by on his bike:

Several local residents volunteered as extras for another scene shot at a ravine outside Hudson:

It was a full day’s work, and the cast and crew turned in rather early in order to be ready to start again at dawn the next day. The second day of shooting was a Sunday, when The Cascades was closed, and the cafe had been made available the whole of that day for shooting of the interior scenes.

The photos shown here are only a small selection of the production stills taken during the shooting of the film. To see a more complete collection of these photos, please visit the gallery The Man at the Counter on my photography website. For additional information about my photography, please also see my photography Facebook page.

(CONTINUED IN PART II — http://philhaber.com/2011/09/21/the-making-of-the-man-at-the-counter-part-ii/.)

Phil Haber

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2 Comments
  1. CHRISTORM permalink

    I like the picture of when Lan is riding his bike in motion. the other picture I like was when the crew try to keep up with lan while he rides outside Hudson.

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  1. THE MAN AT THE COUNTER | FSSA Film Studio

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