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

September 21, 2011

The second day of shooting of the short film The Man at the Counter (Facebook site: The Man at the Counter) took place entirely inside The Cascades Cafe on Warren Street, the main street in the town of Hudson, New York. That day being a Sunday, The Cascades was closed to the public and had been rented for the day by Brian McAllister, the film’s director. This was a make-or-break day for the cast and crew, since a majority of the film’s scenes take place inside the cafe.

Happily for me as the day’s still photographer, the ceiling of the cafe was a uniform light cream color. This favored using bounce flash off the ceiling to light my shots of the cast and crew, thereby softening the overly bright highlights, unwanted reflections and dark shadows that would typically result from the use of direct flash in such a confined area.

While the cafe was an ideal venue for the film, certain alterations still had to be made before shooting could start. For example, some of the furniture and equipment had to be rearranged to create a suitable open space at the counter for the scenes shot there between Ian Hyland, as the young server, and Bill McHugh, who plays his elderly customer. Since these scenes are a part of a story told in flashback by the film’s 30-something protagonist (Tom Everett Scott) about events that occurred when he was 16, the menu items and prices on the blackboards behind the counter had to be changed to those one might have expected to see about 15 years ago. These arrangements were planned and carried out by art director Kaitlyn McInnes and production designer Rachel Bird, seen in the photo below (click on any photo to see a larger version):

The next shot shows the crew in discussion about the setup of the Red One digital cinema camera and the other equipment. Shown from left to right are director Brian McAllister, director of photography Dennis Donovan, producer Bob Cammisa and assistant camera/key grip Phil Toran:

An area was set aside in the back of the cafe for costume designer Katie Maher and her wardrobe. The scenes shot in the cafe take place over a period of several days and numerous costume changes were required. In this shot, Katie assists Bill with a costume:

This photo shows Ian and Bill at the counter in a run-through of a scene before shooting began:

In this photo, director Brian McAllister discusses a scene with Ian and Bill:

Here is director Brian acting like – a director (shown with hair and makeup artist Candice Crawford):

In this photo we see screenwriter Rebecca Sue Haber and producer Bob Cammisa awaiting their turn to appear as extras, seated at the table in the cafe at which they briefly appear in the film:

After a long day of shooting, the crew had to restore the cafe to exactly its condition at the start of the day. This included erasing the menu blackboards and rewriting the original menu items and prices! It was late Sunday evening before the crew was ready to leave for the night. But it was amazing to me how much had been accomplished that day. All was set now for the scenes with Tom Everett Scott, who was scheduled to fly in from Los Angeles the following weekend to shoot the first and last scenes of the film and to record his voiceover.

You can see a larger version of any of the above photos by clicking on the photo. Additional photos can be viewed at my photography website in the gallery The Man at the Counter. For additional information about my photography, please also see my photography Facebook page.

Phil Haber

Copyright © 2011 Philip A. Haber

  1. Phil,
    This is great and I’m betting it was a lot of fun to spend the day as the photographer. Love the photos too :-).

    • Steve – You are right, spending the two-day weekend taking photos of the cast and crew up in Hudson for the shoot was one of my most enjoyable experiences ever. Thanks for the comments.


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