Zack Bernstein, center, and two unidentified men pose for photos at the film premiere.
More than 100 people packed the Tannery Pond Community Center the evening of Friday, Sept. 6 to see the local premiere of “Approaching Normal,” an independent film shot in and around North River. Yet the main character could not make it, for obvious reasons.
The Garnet Hill Lodge stayed home in North River for the show.
The lodge, owned and operated by Don Preuninger and Mindy Piper, was not only the setting for this film, it was indeed a main character. While the actors could have been interchanged to fit their characters, this story was designed to take place at Garnet Hill.
“I filmed at Garnet Hill because my family stayed there probably 20 years ago,” said writer/director Zack Bernstein, a junior at Emerson College in Boston who is studying film production. “I saw some pictures and did some research. We looked around because we didn’t expect to actually get the original location that the story is based off of. Even though the story is fictionalized and the characters are fictionalized, the location isn’t.”
Bernstein, his actors and crew — all Emerson students or alumni — spent three weeks filming at Garnet Hill Lodge in 2012. Shooting began on May 21 and ended June 6. They used the lodge itself, the property and adjoining Thirteenth Lake for scenes. The lodge and landscape became as much a part of the film as did the story. About 60 percent of the film was shot outdoors.
Bernstein joined the Garnet Hill Lodge owners to present this private screening at Tannery Pond because many locals were involved with the production as extras. And it was satisfying to see the reactions from the audience.
“It was nice to kind of do what we can to give back and see their reactions,” Bernstein said. “A lot of them have a relationship to the locations that we shot in, so sometimes they would laugh because things that we wrote in the script actually happened in those various locations. Some of them worked there. Some of them worked there 10 years ago.”
People can’t see the 70-minute film in theaters or on DVD yet, as Bernstein and his production company, Evil Mustache Productions, are currently seeking distribution. He’s also looking to self-distribute through art houses, at film festivals or online through a website such as Netflix.
For now, people can see the trailer online at YouTube. Search for “Approaching Normal Trailer 1.” For the latest developments and photos from filming at Garnet Hill Lodge, check out their Facebook page titled “Approaching Normal (film).”
“The movie preview for ‘Approaching Normal’ was a great success,” Garnet Hill’s Preuninger said in an email. “The movie showing was excellent and the writer, producer and editor were there to talk and answer numerous questions afterward.”
As for future projects, Bernstein won’t commit to filming again in the Adirondack Park, but he won’t rule it out. This Westchester County native is taking it one project at a time.
“I love upstate New York, and I love the Adirondacks,” he said. “Hopefully I can return there. It just depends on where the next movie takes me and what the next movie actually is. I would love to return there some time and shoot another film in the Adirondack region.”
“Approaching Normal” is a film about what it means to become a family, again. The storyline follows current dynamics of aging parents and grown siblings at a family reunion gathering set at a rustic lodge, where the family shared vacations in their youth. Maybe Bernstein will return someday to see his newest family in North River and come back home to the Garnet Hill Lodge.