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The End of a Long ‘Road’

  • Before filming a scene of "Thrasher Road," Sound mixer Ryan Canestro, right, of Simi Valley, Ca., explains how a clapperboard works to Duncan Green, 12, the son of the film's director, Samantha Davidson Green, both of Plainfield, N.H., in front of the Windsor Diner in Windsor, Vt., on Aug. 22, 2016. (Valley News- Sarah Priestap) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Justin Pomerville, production assistant, of Sharon, Vt., helps actresses Darby Hiebert, left, of Pomfret, Vt., and Michelle Carlson, of Cornish, N.H., rehearse a scene for the film "Thrasher Road" in front of the Windsor Diner in Windsor, Vt., on Aug. 22, 2016. (Valley News- Sarah Priestap) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Collin Brazie, gaffer, from Los Angeles, CA, checks the composition of the shot before filming begins for a scene of "Thrasher Road" at the Windsor Diner in Windsor, Vt., on Aug. 22, 2016. (Valley News- Sarah Priestap) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • "Thrasher Road" director Samantha Davidson Green, of Plainfield, Vt., guides setup of a scene for the movie inside the Windsor Diner in front in Windsor, Vt., on Aug. 22, 2016. (Valley News- Sarah Priestap) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, September 02, 2016

Inside the Windsor Diner, Samantha Davidson Green was arranging her camera crew, two members of her cast and a dozen extras into position to shoot a key scene for her first feature film, Thrasher Road.

Outside on Main Street that late-August afternoon, Davidson Green’s mother, Judith Reeve, of Hanover, was greeting Justin Pomerville, of Sharon, with a hug, and asking the rookie production assistant about the summer-long odyssey on which he’d followed Davidson Green from Los Angeles and through the Grand Canyon and Mississippi on the way back to the Upper Valley.

“This whole trip has been very eye-opening,” Pomerville, a 2006 graduate of The Sharon Academy replied on the second-to-last day of the five-week shoot. “I’ve never done this before.”

During this conversation, Pomerville was retrieving a copy of Davidson Green’s script from a plastic tub in the trunk of a car for Michelle Carlson, of Cornish, who plays the girlfriend of one of Thrasher Road’s main characters. Next, he pulled out the pouch of petty cash for producer and first assistant director Maria Rosenblum.

“I was brand new to driving cross-country, to doing all these different things to help move the production along,” Pomerville continued. “Lots of firsts.

“It’s been a ridiculously awesome experience.”

For Davidson Green and for Thrasher Road star Allison Fay Brown, both of whom also grew up in the Upper Valley, the road leading to the road trip followed long arcs of experience.

Davidson Green, a 1987 graduate of Hanover High School who moved to Plainfield three years ago with her husband and their three sons, recalled on Thursday that the screenplay started percolating in her imagination “oh, gosh: six or eight years ago.

“It came out in a writing workshop about four years ago. The structure of the story was all there.”

By June 2015, the Parish Players, for which Davidson Green has directed several productions, was staging a reading of the screenplay, which follows single, pregnant Vermont native Chloe MacGowan, whom Brown plays, on a long retreat across the United States from Los Angeles back home. En route, with her aging (and incontinent) dog Thrasher riding shotgun, Chloe survives a car accident and reluctantly calls on her father, Mac MacGowan, 13 years after he left the family, to accompany her the rest of the way home.

When she was running the box office at Northern Stage as her day job, Brown enjoyed reading the part of Chloe, but could scarcely imagine going on the road to play her in front of a camera.

“I was incredibly busy at work and also preparing for graduate school auditions at that time,” Brown wrote during an exchange of emails from New York city, where she’s begun the New School of Drama’s three-year master’s degree program in acting. “I just assumed it wouldn’t be possible.”

Davidson Green wasn’t sure whether, or at least when, it might be possible to embark on the cross-country shoot. Then late in 2015, cinematographer Eric Leach agreed to direct the photography and two of Davidson Green’s classmates from UCLA’s Graduate School of Theater, Film and Television found time in their schedules to serve as producers. By late April, Davidson Green and husband Jordan Green were rounding up investors to cover the expenses of the shoot, from meals to rental of vehicles, and assembling a cast — including a 14-year-old, Hollywood-veteran dog to play Thrasher — a crew, and props that included a vintage pickup truck.

This week, Davidson Green said she is still calculating the expenses from the road trip.

Neither Pomerville nor Brown, both of whom Davidson Green had directed in the Parish Players’ production of Almost, Maine and in a nine-minute film, Don’t Leave Me Hanging, needed much of a sales pitch to join the expedition.

“I figured, ‘Samantha has invited me into this fold,’ ” Brown said. “ ‘I’m not sure I’ll get another summer to do this.’ ”

The shoot retraced ground over which Davidson Green traveled many times in the course of an early adulthood that, after her graduation from Stanford University in the early 1990s, included teaching high school English and directing theater in Mississippi, before she went on to film school. It was partly for practical purposes — relying on the hospitality and aid of a network of friends and colleagues from coast to coast — and partly for artistic reasons.

“I knew certain stretches of road, and just had a feeling about them,” Davidson Green said. “Mississippi is a place that’s close to my heart. The landscape and the culture are part of my imagination. … It would have been almost impossible for all of this to come together without having all that support, all across the country.”

Then there was the support from Pomerville, who in civilian life is an assistant manager at Newbury Comics in West Lebanon.

“Justin really had the right attitude,” Davidson Green said. “He was down for the adventure, as he would say. … He landed in L.A., had marching orders to run this errand here, deliver this film there. He did great. It was gratifying for me to see him through this journey.

“In some ways, we were like Frodo and Sam in The Lord of the Rings, going to Mount Doom and back.”

Well, it wasn’t quite that hard, but there were some awfully long days.

“It’s a completely different lifestyle from what I’m used to,” Pomerville said on Thursday. “One day in Mississippi, call time was 5 p.m., and we go till 5 a.m. Figure that one out.

“Basically, it came down to learning that I needed to start preparing the night before for the next day. Make sure, especially in all the hot places we were, that we had enough ice, water and food on the set, make sure everyone is in a good mood and well fed and hydrated.”

He learned fast, and particularly comforted Brown, with whom he’d acted several times on stage and on film in Don’t Leave Me Hanging, which Davidson Green adapted from a play by Strafford resident Lillian Schley.

“Having Justin on set was a blessing,” Brown wrote in her email. “I can’t tell you how hard that man worked and how much he added to positive morale. He was everywhere at once.”

In an independent project, so was everyone else.

“I can’t believe we did it,” Brown wrote. “We were a bunch of crazy, inspired artists who were, like, ‘Heck, yeah!’, spearheaded by Samantha’s tireless drive and beautiful story. We were our own little solar system, careening through cities and states.”

For Pomerville, who studied theater at Vermont’s Johnson State College and still hopes to make a career of acting, the experience offered “a brand-new perspective” on his options.

“Seeing how everything works, knowing certain jobs, how long it all takes, I have a whole new appreciation of how people go about their work in this business,” he said. “It makes me want to strive to do more in this kind of work. It would open so many doors to go out into the world and spread my wings.

“If another opportunity like this presents itself, in a heartbeat, I would be gone.”

Just don’t ask him to hit the road right this minute. “There’s a couple of nights’ sleep I still need to catch up on.”

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304.