Film Notes: Movie Shot in Barnard Premieres in London

  • Barnard native Ujon Tokarski appears in a scene from "Major Arcana," a film made by Barnard filmmakers Josh Melrod and Teo Zagar. The film had its premiere Thursday at the Raindance Film Festival in London. (Courtesy photograph)

  • British actor Tara Summers appears in a scene from "Major Arcana," a feature film shot in Barnard, directed by Josh Melrod and co-produced by Teo Zagar. (Courtesy photograph)

Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, September 28, 2018

Two years after they shot Major Arcana at locations in and around Barnard, director Josh Melrod, producer Teo Zagar and leading man Ujon Tokarski joined their crew and backers at the Raindance Film Festival in London on Thursday night to unveil the movie to the world.

At the end of October, they’ll screen it twice at the Austin Film Festival in Texas.

So when and where in the Upper Valley will the general public finally see the 82-minute drama, in which Tokarski, a Barnard native, portrays a troubled young man who comes home to his rural community and encounters still more trouble?

“To be announced,” Melrod said earlier this month, while working on last-minute tweaks to Major Arcana for the London premiere. “We want to as soon as possible, but the requirements for festivals are dictating when we can do it here.”

It took a while for Melrod, a longtime documentarian and editor who moved to Barnard a decade ago, just to bring his first fictional feature to Raindance — much longer than the 19 days that he and his team spent during the summer of 2016, building the movie around the real-time construction of a cabin at the former Clark Farm, now home to the Fable Farm Collective.

“I’ve never run a marathon before, but this was exactly how it must feel,” Melrod said. “I’d been through this process before with some of the documentaries and knew, especially for an independent movie, that it wasn’t going to happen just like that.

“This was par for the course.”

Melrod caught his first glimpses of the finish line in late summer, while sitting in on sound editing, color adjustments and dialogue recording, mostly in New York City.

“That’s when you finally get to see something that you’ve been working on for a long time in low resolution,” he said. “It’s totally cleaned up, with the sound and the music. At long last, it feels like a big, cinematic movie.”

With support from Zagar and other producers, Melrod made Major Arcana on a budget of $250,000. They gambled on Tokarski’s skills as a carpenter and vibe as a native of rural Vermont to navigate his film debut as Dink, the builder and prodigal son, with help from veteran actresses Tara Summers (from the BBC Civil-War-hospital miniseries Mercy Street) and Lane Bradbury (Rita in the 1974 Martin Scorsese movie Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore) playing, respectively, Dink’s ex-girlfriend, Sierra, and Dink’s mother, Jean.

The cast also includes Bridgewater native and actor-comedian Collen Doyle, whom Zagar, a 1996 graduate of Woodstock Union High School and a longtime Barnard resident, knew growing up and recommended for the role.

“It’s a small part, but it’s important,” Melrod said. “We were looking for a particular look, he came in and read, and we cast him. He did a great job.”

Doyle missed the Raindance premiere on Thursday, though with a good alibi: He’s appearing in the ArtisTree Music Theatre production of The Fantasticks, which ends at the Grange Theatre in South Pomfret on Saturday. He’ll get another shot at the red carpet in Austin, where “we’ll be in competition in the narrative feature category, which is very cool,” Melrod wrote in an email from London this week. After those screenings on Oct. 25 and 30, he added, they’re planning a private screening in Barnard in early November.

As premiere time approached, Melrod was still sorting through memories of the filming and the accompanying emotions.

“It’s been so much a part of me since we stopped shooting, I don’t have much separation from it yet,” he said earlier this month. “It’s always been fresh in my head. It came together in an unexpected way. The quality of the performances, and the look and the quality of the sound surpassed my expectations.

“And the spirit of the movie stayed the same.”

See a trailer forMajor Arcanaat www.majorarcanamovie.com.

On the House

The Mascoma Film Society is rolling out another eclectic roster of classic films, at no charge, this fall in Mascoma Valley Regional High School’s welcoming, comfortable auditorium in West Canaan.

Next up, on Oct. 10, is the most recent of the movies, 2016’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Sam Neill co-stars as the reluctant adoptive father of a delinquent Maori orphan, and the two get to know each other during a journey through the New Zealand bush while eluding authorities aiming to seize the boy.

It’s one of several movies on the Mascoma roster that my wife and I hope to see again. Robert Altman’s 2001 costume dramedy Gosford Park showcases Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon and Kristin Scott Thomas as selfish bluebloods, and Helen Mirren, Ryan Philippe, the luminous Kelly Macdonald and Alan Bates (in one of his last roles before he died in 2003), as the servants whom they alternately exploit, browbeat and ignore.

And even though we saw it this summer, we’re tempted to revisit Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, the revelatory documentary about Fred Rogers, on Dec. 5. An earlier chance to see it in the Upper Valley, if you don’t mind paying, comes on Nov. 3, during the Woodstock Vermont Film Series at Billings Farm and Museum.

For a full schedule and more information about the Mascoma series, visit mascomafilmsociety.org.

Coming Attractions

In addition to the widely distributed Crazy Rich Asians (next Friday night), Dartmouth College’s Hopkins Center is screening a number of films worth a look over the coming two weeks. They include Blindspotting, featuring Hamilton co-star Daveed Diggs in a buddy dramedy set in Oakland (Saturday night at Spaulding Auditorium); Sorry to Bother You, the acclaimed feature about a black man voice-passing for white while working as a telemarketer (Oct. 6 at Spaulding); and Pick of the Litter, a documentary following Labrador retriever puppies in training as guide dogs for the blind (Oct. 7 at Loew Auditorium).

I also can’t recommend strongly enough the Oct. 12 screening, at Loew Auditorium, of Puzzle, starring Kelly Macdonald (the voice of the Scottish warrior princess in Brave) as a suburban housewife who breaks out of her shell after discovering a talent for solving jigsaw puzzles. It showed briefly at the Nugget but deserved a longer run.

To reserve tickets to Hop movies and learn more, visit hop.dartmouth.edu or call 603-646-2422.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304. Film news also can be sent to highlights@vnews.com.