ROSENDALE – It’s time for Hollywood in the Hudson Valley once again — Unintended, a new psychological drama shot right here in Ulster County in June of last year, will hold its world premiere at the Rosendale Theater on Saturday, October 13, at 10 a.m. as a part of the Woodstock Film Festival.
The film features local cast members and was shot in area locations, including Ellenville’s Hunt Memorial Building. Production manager Patrick Eaton, said last year while filming, that being in Ellenville was like being on vacation. “Here, everyone’s accommodating,” he said. “And this village, Ellenville, is the perfect setting for the story of a girl returning home. It’s a picturesque setting with a white church steeple and a mountain in the background, plus it has a great vibe about it.”
The film, also shot at Peters Market in Napanoch, Minnewaska, and Rosendale’s Widow Jane Mine, tells the tale of a 24-year-old Lea (Elizabeth Lail) returning to the area after twelve years. In the memories of her last day in Upstate New York as a 12-year-old, Lea (Hannah Westerfield), remembers being goaded into shooting a 14-year-old friend, Bill (Jay Jay Warren). She remembers seeing Bill fall into a mine shaft. Did Bill die? Whether he died or not, what will the consequences be?
“The story,” said Unintended Writer/Director Anja Murmann, in a telephone interview, “came from many places. Basically, I wanted to write a story about a girl who suppresses great trauma and then decides she is ready to return and face any consequences.”
Over the two years that it took Murmann to write the screenplay, she says the story changed greatly. "The ending especially altered," she said. “But I won’t tell you how, not until you see the movie on Saturday.”
In the film, twelve years after leaving Upstate New York, Lea lives in a bedlam New York City hooked on prescription drugs and full of repressed memories. Her father, with no knowledge of the supposed shooting, decides that a return visit to childhood locations would have positive effects for Lea and takes her back. Confronted with people, especially Sam (Sean Cullen, a local actor), a surrogate uncle for the younger- and older-Lea’s, she returns to the mine where the shooting took place… the Widow Jane Mine.
Sean Cullen, Protector
Sean Cullen, who plays Sam, said in an email interview that it is the largest film role he has played to date. (Cullen has appeared in the Oscar-nominated Michael Clayton, with George Clooney, and his upcoming film releases include HBO’s Paterno, with Al Pacino, and Universal’s DeLorean, with Alec Baldwin.)
He said that he and Elizabeth Lail were, in a sense, newcomers to the movie world but they had “worked well and easily together along with director Anja Murmann. It was a blast really,” said Cullen. “Very creative. Very collaborative.”
“For Sean,” said Murmann, “the part he played in this movie was probably greatly different from any he’s played in the past. But people love Sam’s character. He’s a protector.”
Cullen, who has lived in Kerhonkson with his wife and their pre-school age daughter since 2010, said that his character, Sam, was young-Lea’s surrogate uncle. When Lea left the area with her parents, it was a total emotional set-back for Sam. “Lea was only 12 when she left town,” said Cullen, but twelve years later “Sam still has those emotions, not quite buried, when the 24-year-old Lea returns.”
“Lea went looking for Sam upon her return,” said Murmann, “and he’s shocked by what she has become and has a hard time adapting.”
Adding Salt and Pepper
“Elizabeth and I,” Cullen said, “would do our first take of a particular scene and then Anja would season it, with her direction. We called it ‘adding salt and pepper.’ Anja would come around the corner with her headphones on, from wherever she’d been watching on the monitor, and direct us. Then Elizabeth and I would have a great new something to play into the next take. It went on and on, just like that. Very simple, very committed, very trusting. And very easy.”
“We had a deep-deep back-book for Sam,” said Murmann. “He has his own dark history, including a long-dead wife and child. Sometimes considering a different perspective of a character’s personality, or considering another role’s viewpoint, can guide or lead the actors.”
“For me, 2017 was kind of an upstate commuter’s dream,” said Cullen. “Between the three plays I did at Shadowland Stages and Unintended, nothing was further than 45-minutes from home!”
Murmann was appreciative of Ulster County and Rosendale. “I was struck by the great beauty of the area and tried to display that and the kindness of the locals in the film,” she said.
Cullen said, “It’s a minor-miracle to get work of any kind, really, as most actors will tell you. But this particular miracle for me was a little more major. And then, working with director Anja Murmann and producer Sabine Schenk… It was a terrific collaboration. Great fun. Great actors. On Saturday we’ll see how it all worked out.”
For more info and tickets, visit: http://woodstockfilmfestival.org.