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

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.


Phil Haber

Copyright © 2011 Philip A. Haber

A Side Trip to Tannersville, New York

No trip to the Catskill region is complete without a stop in Tannersville, New York, located along State Route 23A a few miles west of Haines Falls. In the course of traveling to Catskill area sites in search of the origins of the Hudson River School of Painting (see my previous blog posts), my wife Margot and I also visited Tannersville, which is chock full of paintings of a quite different sort.

Sometimes referred to as the “Painted Village,” Tannersville has been for several years the subject of a renovation project known as the Paint Program. The program was conceived by local artist and graphic designer Elena Patterson and carried out by the Hunter Foundation, a not-for-profit organization, under her leadership and direction. Having started by painting the outside of her own house in colorful designs, Ms. Patterson then convinced the rest of the town to follow suit. Here are some photos I took of just a few of the renovated buildings (click on any photo to enlarge):

Village Bistro

Odds and Ends Building

Maggie’s Krooked Cafe

Cafe Books Gift Shop

Tannersville Renovation

All of these buildings are located along Main Street (Route 23A). Another worthwhile sight is the All Souls Church, located north of the main part of town at the intersection of County Road 25 and County Road 23C. Both the stone exterior of the church and its stone and wood interior are beautiful:


All Souls Church

Interior of the All Souls Church

Margot and I had an excellent dinner at the Village Bistro Restaurant (see the first photo above), one of many restaurants and cafes in the town.

Tannersville is located just a few miles east of the town of Hunter and Hunter Mountain. In the winter it is a source of lodging for skiers and snowboarders and serves as an enjoyable après ski locale.

For more photos of Catskill Mountain sights and other Hudson Valley landscapes, see my photo website, Phil Haber Photography, and in particular the Hudson Valley Gallery, where you can also purchase and download copies of the photos shown in this article.  For additional information about my photography, please see my photography Facebook page.

Phil Haber

Copyright © 2011 Philip A. Haber

A Photographic Journey to the Hudson River School of Painting – Part II

After our initial visit to the Thomas Cole National Historic Site and Kaaterskill Falls, described in Part I of this blog, Margot and I decided to return for a two-day stay in Haines Falls, New York, which lies a few miles west of Bastion Falls on Route 23A. From there, it is a very short drive to North Lake and South Lake, where there are trails leading to the site where once had stood the Catskill Mountain House and to Sunset Rock. These are the sites numbered 6 and 7 on the Trail Map for the Hudson River School Art Trail that we had picked up at the Thomas Cole house, and were inspirational for Cole and other members of the Hudson River School of Painting.

The Catskill Mountain House

From the parking area at North Lake, an easy trail less than one-half mile long leads uphill to the former site of the Catskill Mountain House. The Catskill Mountain House  opened in 1824 and was America’s first mountaintop resort hotel. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the hotel was a favorite destination of wealthy and socially prominent Americans and was visited by three U.S. presidents. It sat at an elevation of 2,250 feet above sea level on the edge of an escarpment facing east with a vast panoramic view of the Hudson River and landscapes extending to Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont as well as New York. The hotel later fell on hard times and an effort to renovate it in the 1950’s was unsuccessful. In 1963, it was burned to the ground by the New York State Conservation Department, over the protests of preservationists, on the ground that it violated the New York Forest Preserve’s “forever wild” policy. However, the famous view remains for all to see:

View from the former site of the Catskill Mountain House

(Click on any image in this post to see a larger version.)

We also took a longer and more difficult trail to the north and west around the edge of the escarpment to Artist Rock and Sunset Rock. From Sunset Rock there is a magnificent view to the southwest and west that encompasses North-South Lake, Hunter Mountain and other mountains, and the site of the Catskill Mountain House:

View from Sunset Rock

View from Sunset Rock

Here is a view of this scene, from a slightly different direction, painted by Jasper Francis Cropsey in 1855. Note the location of the Catskill Mountain House about halfway up the escarpment:

Catskill Mountain House, by Jasper Cropsey, 1855

We also paid a visit to site number 3 on the Trail Map. Located in the town of Catskill itself, on an overpass over the Catskill Creek along what is now Route 9W, the site affords a view of the creek similar to that seen in a number of Hudson River School paintings such as this one by Frederic Edwin Church:

Scene on Catskill Creek

Here are a couple of my photos of the creek as it looks today:

Catskill Creek

Section of Catskill Creek

Unfortunately, from this location we could not see the mountains in the background, which are visible in Church’s painting.

We then traveled back across the Hudson River via the Rip Van Winkle Bridge to Olana, the home of Frederic Edwin Church. Church was a student of Thomas Cole and a leading member of the Hudson River School. His home is a Persion style mansion that sits high atop a prominent hill from which there are commanding views of the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains, such as this one:

View of the Catskill Mountains from Olana

Olana is open to the public and there are regular tours of the house and the frequent exhibitions available to be seen there.

Our trip to Olana concluded our self-guided tour of sites on the Hudson River School Art Trail. Other photos relating to our tour of these sites and to the Hudson Valley region generally can be seen in the Hudson Valley Gallery on my website.

I should also mention that during our two-day stay in the Catskill area, we stayed overnight at the Rosehaven Inn, a beautiful and meticulously maintained B&B located in Haines Falls just off Route 23A, which we highly recommend.

We could not leave this area without a visit to the town of Hudson, New York, which lies on the east bank of the Hudson River just a few miles north of Olana and is my favorite town in this part of the country. The main street in Hudson is Warren Street, a gorgeous avenue that stretches for several blocks down to the edge of the river and features beautiful architecture, antique shops, art galleries, restaurants and cafes, including the Cascades Cafe. This street and cafe were the principal locations for a short film entitled The Man at the Counter shot in September and October of 2010, for which I had the pleasure of serving as the production stills photographer during the initial days of shooting. This is how Warren Street appeared to me at sunrise on the first morning of shooting, as the crew was setting up for the initial takes:

Early morning on Warren Street, Hudson, New York

The Cascades Cafe is located on this block. Here is a shot of the front of the cafe which I took a little later the same morning:

The Cascades Cafe

My experiences shooting production stills for The Man at the Counter will be the subject of a future posting in this blog.

For additional examples of, and information about, my photography, please see my photography website and my photography Facebook page.

Phil Haber

Copyright © 2011 Philip A. Haber

A Photographic Journey to the Hudson River School of Painting – Part I

My wife Margot and I have long been interested in the Hudson River School of Painting. Founded by Thomas Cole in the 1820’s, the Hudson River School was the first recognized art movement in the United States. The School comprised over 20 major artists and numerous others, and extended from the 1820’s until approximately 1875. It is particularly known for dramatic landscapes of the pristine wilderness of early America, including paintings depicting scenes of the Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountains. Cedar Grove, the original home and studio of Thomas Cole, is located near the west bank of the Hudson River in the town of Catskill, New York. Now known as the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, it has been carefully restored and was opened to the public several years ago as a museum. You can learn more about the museum at its website at

In addition to an informative tour of the premises, the Thomas Cole National Historic Site offers a Trail Map and guided tours of several other sites in the vicinity of Cedar Grove that were inspirational to Cole and other artists of the Hudson River School and are the subject of many of their paintings. Some of these sites can only be reached by uphill hikes, which range from easy to moderately difficult. Margot and I looked at the trail map and decided to visit each of the marked sites on our own.

The first site on our list was Kaaterskill Falls, a two-drop waterfall which, at a combined 260 feet, is one of the highest falls in New York State. It is located off Route 23A about 15 miles west of the town of Catskill, in the Catskill Forest Preserve, between the towns of Palenville and Haines Falls. The base of the falls can only be reached by a trail that starts near the side of a hairpin turn in Route 23A and climbs nearly straight up over rocks and tree roots for about one-half mile. But first, at the bottom of the trail, right beside the road, is a smaller but perhaps no less beautiful waterfall known as Bastion Falls:

Bastion Falls

You can view a larger version of any image in this blog by clicking on it. You can also view larger versions of my photos and other related photos on my Photo Website in the Hudson Valley Gallery.

The steep climb up to the base of Kaaterskill Falls is rewarded by an astonishing sight:

Kaaterskill Falls

Kaaterskill Falls was painted numerous times by Thomas Cole from various perspectives, including this 1826 oil on canvas:

Falls of the Kaaterskill

The existence of the falls was called to Cole’s attention by Washington Irving’s story “Rip Van Winkle”, published in 1819. Describing Rip Van Winkle’s journey home after awakening from his 20-year sleep, Irving wrote about the falls: “At length he reached to where the ravine had opened through the cliffs to the amphitheatre; but no traces of such an opening remained. The rocks presented a high impenetrable wall, over which the torrent came tumbling in a sheet of feathery foam, and fell into a deep broad basin, black from the shadows of the surrounding forest.”

The hike to Kaaterskill Falls completed the first day of our visit to the origins of the Hudson River School of Painting. Our subsequent visits will be the subject of later posts.

For additional examples of, and information about, my photography, please see my photography website and my photography Facebook page.

Phil Haber

Copyright © 2011 Philip A. Haber