'Secret Village' coming soon to Little Cinema at Berkshire Museum

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PITTSFIELD -- "The Secret Village" will be revealed next week in a theater near you.

Director Swamy Kandan has chosen the Little Cinema at the Berkshire Museum for the world premiere of his cinematic thriller, which was shot last year on various Berkshire County locations last year. The film will be screened there Oct. 25-28. Other U.S. screenings happening this month include cities in New York, Pennsylvania, Florida and California. The film will be distributed in India and Europe in December.

"From both a cast and crew perspective, we had a lot of local people engaged in the making of the film. They helped me in the filming stage so I wanted to take the time to pay it back to them," Kandan told The Eagle. He produced the film with Sridhar Ranganath, Micah Brandt and Raj T. Rajan.

"The Berkshires is where I filmed, so now I am trying to get attention for this location," he said.

Berkshire Museum spokeswoman Lesley Ann Beck said the museum is "thrilled" to be hosting the film's premiere run and hopes to be considered for such events in the future.

"To see all the places in the Berkshires that were filmed, it's such a good fit for the Little Cinema. Its historic auditorium is a really nice place to see something like this," Beck said.

The movie was shot in May 2012 in the towns of Stockbridge, Lee, Lenox, Monterey and Pittsfield. Specific locations include Stockbridge Cemetery, Olivia Point, Hancock Shaker Village, Naumkeag, October Mountain State Forest and Sullivan Station Restaurant.

"The Secret Village," co-written by Kandan and associate producer Jason B. Whittier, follows Greg (Jonathan Bennett, "Mean Girls," "Mining for Ruby"), an unsuccessful screenwriter and Rachel (Ali Faulkner, "Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn"), a spunky journalist.

The two meet as strangers but begin to researching together an outbreak of deadly ergot (rye fungus) poisoning and mass hysteria in a small village. They rent a house together and start to uncover a secret that has shrouded this village for years. Guarded locals Joe (Stelio Savante, "Ugly Betty") and Paul (Richard Riehle, "Office Space," "Grounded for Life") seem to have the answers but don't want to share. When Greg disappears, Rachel is left alone to unravel the mystery and save their lives.

Kandan said he was initially concerned about filming with budget constraints due to the possibility of having to truck cast and crew members in from New York City. He said it didn't take long for him to rest assured that all the resources he needed could be found right here.

The Secret Village cast credits several local acting extras and technical crew members. Other residents earned small speaking roles in the film, including Randy Cormier of Windsor and Darleen Zradi of Pittsfield.

Zradi owns and operates Sullivan Station Restaurant and catering in Lee. She and her staff not only appear in the film, they also catered breakfast, lunch and dinner for the cast and crew.

"It was a lot of work but it was a lot of fun. Swamy and his crew were so easy to work with and I have a great staff to help me out," said Zradi. "During the couple of days of filming here, people kept coming by and checking it out. It was definitely a boost in business."

She said she also got lots of pictures and autographs with the cast and crew, and keeps in touch with the director.

"It's good that we have people who want to come here and produce films," she said.

"It's pretty exciting," said Cormier, "It's something we don't get to see every day."

He said he plans on going to the premiere with friends and family. He has a speaking role as a waiter in the film.

Cormier said seeing himself on the big screen will be "a little bit bizarre, but a lot of fun." He said the film in general will be fun to watch for anyone who knows the area.

"It's sort of a big deal for the Berkshires, to see a film shot in your own hometown," he said. "Hopefully it will bring more filmmakers here. The Berkshires is already so filled with music and art and culture, it just makes sense."

Diane Pearlman agrees. She is the executive director of what has been recently renamed as the Berkshire Film and Media Collaborative of Western Massachusetts. The organization, which promotes filmmaking in the Berkshires, still goes by the "BFMC" acronym, but changed its name to better distinguish itself from the state use of the word "commission," she said.

On Friday afternoon, Pearlman attended a BFMC board meeting to talk about this and upcoming film projects in the Berkshires.

She said that "The Secret Village" served as an economic driver in the region of Lee and Stockbridge at the outset of summer tourist season.

"The cast and crew spent a substantial part of its budget right in and around Lee for food, lodging and other expenditures. It was a boon for the economy at a time when it can be a little quiet around here," Pearlman said.

She said three other independent films are looking to use the Berkshires as a backdrop this fall and winter. She did not name the specific projects, but said one movie is looking to begin filming at the end of this month, another is looking to shoot at the end of November, and a third is eyeing the late-winter season.

"I think we're starting to see the results of all of [the Collaborative's] work marketing the Berkshires as a prime filming location," said Pearlman.

She said western Massachusetts as a whole is being looked to more often, noting that two major Hollywood productions -- "Labor Day" (Josh Brolin, Kate Winslet) and "The Judge" (Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vincent D'Onofrio) -- were filmed in nearby Shelburne Falls last year.

"I think all of our work to get these locations out there show that we can support film in the region," Pearlman said.

Secret Village Director Swamy Kandan said the Berkshires is a place he's willing to return to.

"As long as the script requires that kind of setting, it's going to be on my list," he said.

To reach Jenn Smith:
jsmith@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6239.
On Twitter: @JennSmith_Ink

If you go

What: Premiere of "The Secret Village," a suspense-thriller (unrated), inspired by true events. Directed by Swamy Kandan. Filmed in the Berkshires.

When: Oct. 25-28. Screenings Friday through Sunday, 7 p.m.; Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m.; Monday at 2 p.m. Oct. 25 showing includes a talkback session afterward with Kandan.

Where: Little Cinema at Berkshire Museum, 39 South St., Pittsfield.

Tickets: $7.50, $5 for museum members, general admission. For advance tickets, call (413) 443-7171, ext. 10. For more details, visit http://bit.ly/19X6C9o.

To learn more about "The Secret Village," visit: www.facebook.com/TheSecretVillage or look it up on imdb.com.

To read The Eagle's article on the making of the film in 2012: http://bit.ly/IM7E8l


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