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Film Notes: Canaan Film Editor Brings Local Feature’s Premiere to Mascoma

  • Film editor Charles Geoghegan looks over footage from Stefan van Norden's documentary "Negotiating with Nature" on his editing suite at his home in Canaan. Geoghegan, a 1999 graduate of Mascoma Valley Regional High School, has years of video editing experience, but "Negotiating" was his first feature. (Courtesy photograph)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/8/2018 12:04:58 AM
Modified: 6/8/2018 12:20:22 AM

Walking out of Mascoma Valley Regional High School with his diploma in 1999, Charles Geoghegan knew that he wanted to be in pictures — the still variety.

On June 22, the Canaan native will walk down the carpet of his alma mater’s new auditorium for the Upper Valley premiere of Hanover director Stefan van Norden’s Negotiating with Nature the documentary Geoghegan recently edited, to talk about the finished product with family, friends, neighbors and devotees of film and gardening.

The securing of the venue, which wasn’t even a gleam in the school district’s eye in 1999, was a study in serendipity.

“I hadn’t seen the theater until last October, when the Mascoma Film Society showed Nosferatu with the guy (Jeff Rapsis) who plays live music at silent films,” Geoghegan said on Tuesday. “I couldn’t believe how nice that auditorium is. That was in the back of my mind when Stefan was looking for a place to show it around here. I thought, ‘That would be a great place.’ ”

The film society, which usually shows older movies at the 500-seat theater, agreed.

“Charles reached out to me about a month ago, and we were happy to screen the film and celebrate an achievement of a Mascoma graduate,” film society member Natalie Pelella, who also teaches English at the high school, said on Wednesday. “We also felt the film’s themes were ones our Upper Valley community would appreciate.”

In his cinematic exploration of the human relationship with the natural world, Van Norden, a gardener by trade, visited George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, New York City’s Central Park and other manmade green spaces while shooting Negotiating with Nature. The hour-long documentary includes interviews with gardeners, landscape architects, poets and writers.

With grants from The Byrne Foundation, the Hendricks/Felton Foundation and Upper Valley individuals, van Norden hired professional cinematographer Eric Clauson and Geoghegan, the latter on the recommendation of Norwich resident and veteran filmmaker Nora Jacobson.

“Charles did a fantastic job editing the trailer for The Hanji Box,” Jacobson said on Monday about her most recent feature. “I assumed if he could cut a great trailer, he would do even better job — or just as good — cutting a film.”

Geoghegan had honed those skills, for the most part, during more than 15 years of producing videos, much of it bound for YouTube and other landing places on the internet. While majoring in still photography at Oberlin College during his undergraduate years, he discovered a knack for film and “time-based media,” and wound up attending Pyramind, a music production school in San Francisco.

“It got me on a road to learning all the different disciplines related to video production, right when YouTube was starting to hit the scene,” Geoghegan said. “After I graduated, (Pyramind’s administrators) were starting to get interested in offering online training and holding master classes at special events, where they would need someone to document them, then post them on YouTube. I got lucky, got to kind of grow into that role.”

Within a few years, Geoghegan was teaching classes in editing video “with a multi-discipline approach, so that these students could learn how to market themselves,” he recalled. Eventually, he and another Pyramind alumnus formed a video-production collective, freelancing for each other’s projects in and around San Francisco, such as Kickstarter videos for start-up firms and non-governmental organizations.

By early 2015, Geoghegan felt enough confidence in his skills to move back to the Upper Valley with his wife, Enfield native Andrea Dionne, and continue freelancing.

“The Bay Area’s expensive to live in, which was a major factor, and Andrea really missed this area,” he said. “I can work remotely, so where I live doesn’t matter as far as post-production stuff.”

Geoghegan’s road to van Norden’s project started with a friend from Mascoma High, who was giving horseback riding lessons to documentarian and part-time Hanover resident Liz Canner. Canner needed someone to work on the audio for her next movie, and Canner in turn recommended Geoghegan to Jacobson for The Hanji Box.

In the wake of The Hanji Box, van Norden approached Geoghegan with a general outline of what he wanted for Negotiating with Nature and footage to fit it.

“It was a pretty cool challenge,” Geoghegan said. “As an editor, you have to maintain multiple perspectives at the same time. While you’re working on the details, you have to pretend you’re seeing the content for the first time. I was fortunate, the way Stefan set it up, that I didn’t have to do a lot of digging back into the raw interviews. Once he gave me the pre-selected material, he let me go and do what needed to be done, to follow my instincts. It was good to be able to do what I wanted to do, while envisioning what he was going for, and remaining true to that.”

None of which Geoghegan envisioned during his Mascoma commencement, 19 years ago this month.

“That feels like a long time ago,” he concluded. “A lifetime.”

The Mascoma Film Society hosts the Upper Valley premiere ofNegotiating with Natureon June 22 at 6 p.m., in the new auditorium at Mascoma Valley Regional High School in West Canaan. Admission is $5 to $10.

Prize Packages

If I Could Run, the independent film shot in the Upper Valley last summer on a script by Windsor resident Don Miller, won two awards during the WorldFest Houston festival in Texas in April. The Houston Broadcast Film Critics group conferred its choice award for best picture to Texas-based filmmaker Shawn Welling, and awarded the best young actress prize to Preslee Bishop, who stars as a high school girl who perseveres against bullying.

Welling shot the movie in and around Windsor over three days in August and eight in October of 2017, stationing 1950s-era cars at locations ranging from Miller’s farm and the Windsor High track to the Windsor Diner and Paradise Park. The cast includes Windsor High senior Ethan Rhoad, former Windsor school resource officer Jen Frank and, in flash-forward scenes more than 50 years after the main story, Miller and Windsor High sophomore Aria Kelly.

On the House

The Mascoma Film Society’s summer parade of free movie screenings begins on Wednesday night with Across the Universe, Broadway director Julie Taymor’s Vietnam War-era romance built around the music of The Beatles.

The following Wednesday, June 20, the society offers director John Guillermin’s adaptation of the Agatha Christie mystery Death on the Nile, with Peter Ustinov starring as the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot looking for the murderer among an all-star cast. Kenneth Branagh is currently working on a new adaptation, due out in 2019, in which he will star and direct.

While admission is free to the movies, both of which start at 6:30 at Mascoma Valley Regional High School’s auditorium in West Canaan, donations are welcome.

Pentangle Arts screens 1979’s Being There at the Woodstock Town Hall Theatre next week, as part of its “Thank You Thursdays” series of free films. The lights go down at 7:30 p.m. on the fable, which stars Peter Sellers as a quiet, eccentric gardener who stumbles into the role of adviser to a powerful Washington insider.

The following Thursday, June 21 at 7:30 p.m., Pentangle will screen The Witness, director James D. Solomon’s 2015 documentary revisiting the 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese outside her apartment in Queens, N.Y.

While admission is free to all movies in the series, donations are welcome.

A Series of Fortunate Events

Billings Farm and Museum resumes its Woodstock Vermont Film Series on June 30, with screenings at 3 and 5 p.m. of Peter and the Farm, Tony Stone’s 91-minute documentary from 2016 about an aging, troubled Springfield, Vt., resident struggling to hold onto his land and his way of life. Tickets, which Billings recommends ordering in advance, cost $6 to $11.

Northeast Kingdom filmmaker Jay Craven, who is curating the series for the summer, will introduce each month’s movie and lead a discussion when the lights come back up. To reserve seats and learn more, call 802-457-2355.

David Corriveau can be reached at and at 603-727-3304. Film- and television-related news and announcements also can be sent to

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