Gay love story is first film production attracted

The Granite Media Center (GMC) held a reception yesterday to celebrate the start of filming of the facility’s first motion picture. Public officials and private business leaders from throughout the community came to meet the cast and crew of “Just Say Love,” a film that is expected to open later this year. Stagewright Productions, the producers, starting filming earlier this week and expected to be done in about one week.

Producer/Director Bill Humphreys of Elliot, Me. said he chose the local facility for several reasons.
One was simply to be able to work near his home and employ New Englanders experienced in the field. (About one-third of the crew of “Just Say Love” is New Hampshire residents.) The other was simply to save money. “To get a facility this size in Los Angeles or New York would have been four or five times the costs,” Humphreys said. “And there’s no sales tax here.”

For Eliza Leadbeater, former executive director of the Belknap County Economic Development Council, the filming of “Just Say Love” is the fulfillment of a dream she’s had for over 12 years.

That’s when she first saw the old farmhouse and property on Autumn Drive. At the request of state arts official, she examined the 40,000-square-foot facility with the idea that it could be turned into a film production studio that would bring a touch of Hollywood magic — and business — into the Lakes Region.

Leadbeater thought she had a commitment to have a Meryl Streep movie shot at the still unfinished plant until Massachusetts film officials swept and offered the film’s producers financial inducements that couldn’t be locally matched. But shortly after Leadbeater left the council in 2007, she met with local businessman Robert Callahan and the two starting work on creating the GMC. Now production companies that are filming commercials, producing special media projects and hosting corporate events are using the facility more and more regularly.

Besides the filming facilities GMC rents both long and short-term office space while providing services — from office equipment to catering — to whoever is using the building.

While Leadbeater was talking, several members of the “Just Say Love” crew were demonstrating some “movie magic” for the crowd of about 70 people who attended the event. Co-producer/production manager Tyler Heon and electrician Danny Belinkie walked around a set where it was “snowing” — tiny soap bubbles.

Before the event kicked off, Humphreys said the movie is an adaptation of a play by David Mauriello. “The story is about a relationship between two people and how they go through that initial phase of being physically attracted to each other,” Humphreys said, “then it progresses to be something more spiritual, into and a platonic relationship.” The two main characters are gay men in their early 30s, he added.

Addressing the reception audience later, Humphreys said that what Stagewright is aiming to do is the opposite of what usually occurs in movies today. “We’re not interested in car chases or explosions,” he said. Instead the company wants to take small intimate plays like “Just Say Love” and adapt them for the screen without “opening up” the way Hollywood filmmakers usually do.

By Ray Carbone

Printed in The Laconia Daily Sun

5/9/08