The Prodigal Sons

The Prodigal Sons

Mount Joy Returns to Lancaster County

For the past 12 months, Mount Joy has been on the road. It’s been seen in California, Florida, Missouri, and New York, not to mention Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. It seems like Mount Joy went everywhere except Lancaster County this year… but I’m excited to share that it’s finally coming home.

I’m speaking, of course, about the Mount Joy movie, not a magic traveling town. The homegrown indie-rock romance flick comes from the minds of director Jack Lewars and screenwriter M. Angelo Mena, who grew up together in the town the film is named after. Mount Joy recently completed the festival circuit and will make its local debut in January, first with a VIP premiere at Zoetropolis on the 10th, and then a theatrical run at Penn Cinema from January 16th to the 23rd.

“We made this movie as a tribute to growing up in Lancaster County,” says Lewars. “We’re really excited to show the movie here for our friends and families and everyone in Lancaster County who has an interest in funny, romantic, independent cinema.”

Celluloid Heroes

“The Living Daylights” performing live at the Chameleon Club.
Photo by Bianca Cordova.

I found out about Mount Joy in the spring of 2012, while scanning Craigslist for potential freelance work. They’d already shot half of the movie the summer before, but the crew was shorthanded this second time around, and they wanted to work with people who knew the area. Conveniently enough, they were filming down the street from my apartment that day, so a few minutes later I was on-set and working as a Production Assistant.

Jay Della Valle at Good’s Disposal.
Photo by Bianca Cordova.

The other PAs and I tackled any task that could be delegated, whether it was picking up a muscle car or buying a birthday cake. We carried equipment, wrapped cables, changed batteries (and even a tire), and absorbed every bit of experience that we could. At times it was very demanding—independent cinema is fraught with challenges, not the least of which is staying within budget—but that was more than matched by the excitement and enthusiasm we all felt as we watched the story come to life.

SueAndAlex

Jay Della Valle & Katie Hyde.
Photo by Bianca Cordova.

Not having seen the script, I never knew what to expect; we’d film scenes in a cornfield one day, and in a garbage dump—sorry, a waste treatment facility—the next. They’d even staged concerts at The Chameleon Club before I joined the crew. I could only imagine how it would all fit together. What was clear, though, was that the characters and their relationships were at the heart of the story. The tortured romance that grips Sue and Alex (Jay Della Valle and Katie Hyde, respectively) unfolded viscerally, as the actors alternated between tender moments and explosive arguments. Comic relief, on the other hand, usually stemmed from the twins (Brandon Lee Harris and Timothy Hoobler), who kept us laughing on and off the set.

Brandon Lee Harris

Brandon Lee Harris
Photo by Bianca Cordova.

Timothy Hoobler

Timothy Hoobler
Photo by Bianca Cordova.

We Didn’t Start the Fire

The Barn Burn.
Photo by Bianca Cordova.

One thing I’ll never forget is the day we burned down the barn. It was the big climax, the last day of filming, and a ton of preparation had gone into this key scene. Firetrucks and an ambulance were standing by for safety. We had a camera on a crane for the aerials and there was a nervous energy humming through all of the crew because we had one chance to get the scene right.

As night fell, they recruited me to be an extra in the scene. The firefighters started the blaze (ironic, I know) and soon we had a controlled inferno on our hands. Even 100 yards away, it still felt like the fire was right on us, like it was singeing the hair off the backs of our necks. It was totally surreal. We sweated through the scenes as many times as we could within our narrow window of time, then signaled for the firefighters to extinguish the barn—we had the shots we needed.

It’s been almost three years since that night and I, for one, am jazzed to see the finished film. Variety calls Mount Joy “a straight-up tearjerker” and the 2014 Philadelphia Independent Film Festival selected it as the Best Feature of the Year. In addition to other awards and nominations, the film has played to sold-out crowds at festivals around the country, even earning encore screenings by popular demand. I hope that everyone in Mount Joy and Lancaster will join me in welcoming home these local filmmakers and their acclaimed film!

Head over to the official Mount Joy movie website today to watch the trailer and get tickets to the January screenings!

P.S. If you can’t make it to the movie theater, don’t fret! Starting January 24th, Mount Joy will be available in over 70 million households nationwide via Cable Pay-Per-View, and will soon be on DVD, Amazon-On-Demand, and iTunes.

You can pre-order Mount Joy on iTunes now!

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Brent Urmey is an avid reader and writer on a variety of subjects, including social media, SEO, the Wireless industry, and life in Lancaster County, PA. He is a graduate of Drexel University and a survivor of the 2012 Mayan Apocalypse.