On Thursday, June 2, the town of Walton turned out en masse to see itself on the silver screen: The independent feature film “Afterlight,” filmed on location in Walton, screened at the Walton Theater.
The town's been anticipating this premiere for a long time. “The Afterlight,” a “minimalist mood poem” about a solar eclipse in which the landscape stars as prominently as any of the actors, began filming in 2006.
The Walton community came out in full support of its town and its local actors, many of whom were small children when the film was shot. Craig Macneill and Alexei Kaleina, who directed and produced the film together, were on hand to talk about the film.
“We just fell in love with the town and location. We had a first draft [of the script] before we got here, based on pictures, but it was nothing like we imagined. It was even better,” said Macneill.
“It’s a very landscape-heavy film. Walton is one of the main characters in the film,” said Kaleina.
In one of the lead roles, local girl Morgan Taddeo, now in the seventh grade, stars as Lucy. The film is moody and ominous, but Taddeo said the part was fun: “The part I liked the best was when I got to sneak into the house and I stood on a stool in the bathroom and I had to wobble and pretend like I was going to fall. I wasn’t scared at all because I love acting,” Taddeo said.
“I’ve always wanted to model and act.” Taddeo has advice for other kids with big-screen aspirations: “Go for it. Because if you want to do it, you definitely can.” Her sister Samantha Taddeo, who is now 10, also had a cameo in the film.
Brothers Fred Babcock, age 17, and Noah Capasso, age 9, played extras in the film. Neither had seen the film yet but both enjoyed acting in the film. “This is something I would definitely be interested in doing in the future,” Babcock said. Capasso, who was 5 years old at the time of filming, said he had fun acting in the film.
Charlie Naden, who is now 14 years old and in the eighth grade, also had a role as a rock-throwing extra in the film. He had a few re-takes while filming, but also thought it was a lot of fun. Naden does not plan on a future acting career; he wants to be a doctor.
Community residents not only came out to support their town and neighbors, but also to see their former schoolhouse. Walton elders Chris Storrer, Diana Offnick and Ron Merwin all attended the one-room schoolhouse that is featured in the film, District #9 in Cleaver, located on Lower Loomis Brook Road.
At the premiere, each reminisced about their time at the one room schoolhouse in the late 1950’s.
Offnick fondly recalled the smell of the wood floors, while Storrer and Merwin shared the memory of being janitors at the schoolhouse, where, they say, they were paid ten cents a day.” Merwin had a very clear recollection of “carrying water from the Gransbury house every day… and them rotten outhouses.”
The filming of “The Afterlight” hit an unexpected challenge: the devastating flood of 2006, which hit just before the crew was scheduled to begin filming.
“Literally everything here was underwater. The farm where we shot was completely unscathed. But you will see in the film there is a lot of flood damage,” said Macneill. “There is a mention of the flood in the credits on the film. There is also a line in the film that references the flood. “
This was the pair's first joint endeavor in feature films.
The directors have advice to youngsters wanting to act, “Join school theatre, school plays, grab cameras and make a film. We used to make movies on VHS tape. Just do it.” The pair is tossing around ideas for a new script, and would not rule out filming in Walton again.
Macneill and Kaleina are proud of the film. “This film is a very home grown film and was on a very small budget. We met our goals. We were fortunate to get into the Rome Film Festival, to open up in New York City and to get a distribution deal. We’ve exceeded our ambition.”
“Without Walton we would have never been able to make this film.”
Walton Theater Preservation Board Members, Paula O’Brien, Sue Turner and Lisa Favre organized the reception immediately following the showing of the film. O’Brien says the premiere was a great opportunity to promote the historic theater building. “This is more of a community building that we want to keep active in the arts.” She is hoping to make the region's burgeoning film industry feel welcome, and hopes that more independent films can be screened at the theater.
The film will be released on DVD this fall. For more information, visit the film's website: www.afterlightfilm.com. The film's producers have made a song from the soundtrack available for download. We've embedded a link below.