PORT HENRY — Seeing 1940s automobiles gliding down Main Street in Port Henry while people in suits and fedoras strolled the sidewalk made some people think time had rolled back.
But it was Westport filmmaker Addison Mehr shooting a noir period piece about a boy’s coming-of-age in a small-town post-World War II.
The short film, “Fort Apache,” will be Mehr’s senior thesis at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
“It takes place in a small town that is quintessential Americana,” he said while filming was under way at Port Henry’s Sagan’s Block. “For me, growing up in a small town was like that. I could relate to the story.”
They didn’t need to do much to simulate the 1940s in downtown Port Henry, he said.
“The structures are so beautiful, and they haven’t changed.”
“Fort Apache” is the story of Walt Freely, a 14-year-old kid who lives in the fictional small town of Krafton and is emerging out of the naive world of children and into the not-as-nice realm of adults.
Executive Producer Spencer Mehr, Addison’s brother, said they heard about the story, by Alan Heathcock, in a National Public Radio review.
“The story was in a collection of short stories called ‘Volt.’ We said ‘cool,’ and we optioned it. We planned how to turn a really nice short story into a screenplay.”
Next, they needed funding, he said, and that came from the online Kickstarter Program, raising $17,000 for the production.
Producer Nathan Waters said they need more money for editing and post-production and are taking direct donations now on their fortapachefilm.com website.
The casting includes a mix of professional actors and non-actors, Addison said, with his NYU film class serving as crew.
Addison Mehr went to Westport Central School, and he’s graduating from NYU with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, with an emphasis on film and television. He’s only 20, having started college at age 16.
“It’s a personal story for me,” Addison said. “It’s beautiful and unique, like what we have here in the Adirondacks.”
Addison grew up in Westport, and the short film is being shot in several locations, including his hometown, along with Port Henry, Moriah and Lake Placid.
“We’re shooting at the historic Palace Theatre in Lake Placid,” he said. “That’s where it will probably also have its premiere screening.”
Addison’s previous short film, “Firecracker!” was selected for the NYU Showcase and screened at the Lake Placid Film Festival.
He has worked on music videos for rock band MGMT, Devendra Banhart, Norah Jones and Wyclef Jean, along with assisting famed director Martin Scorsese.
Filming on “Fort Apache” will continue through Saturday. Once it’s released, they’ll be entering it in film festivals like Sundance, Addison said.
“Shooting in in the places where I grew up makes it more personal for me. So much in a small town is the same as other small towns.”
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