Adams Memorial Middle School, locals to have roles in upcoming short film

ADAMS — A New York City production company shot scenes for their upcoming movie “February” inside the former Adams Memorial Middle School on Wednesday, with a cast and crew of 65, including many locals.

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Director Jessi Shuttleworth speaks about her short film,’February’, parts of which were filmed at the former Adams Memorial Middle School on Wednesday, July 10, 2013. In the background are young actors Hayley Gasbarro, 11, and her brother Aidan, 13, of Barrington, R.I. (Gillian Jones/North Adams Transcript)

Jessi Shuttleworth, Scabland Productions president and CEO, praised the successes had Wednesday by a group of “amazing little actors,” as her crew finished up clearing Columbia Street’s set-for-a-day late in the afternoon.

“There would be no ‘February’ without you guys,” Shuttleworth said. “You were all awesome.”

The youths would soon see themselves on screen in the film’s classroom scenes, she added, and some may even get passes to a future film festival with “February” on the bill.

All had weathered a long, 12-hour day, beginning at 4:45 a.m.

The team had arrived Tuesday night and made up the school to look like a circa 1990s middle school before catching some sleep briefly at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

“February” is a short film based on a real-life, 1996 school shooting at Frontier Middle School in Moses Lake, Wash., that killed three — two students and an algebra teacher.

Shuttleworth wrote the script and is directing the film. Her connection to the event is a personal one: Her brother was a student at Frontier when the shooting occurred.

“I remember three things about that day,” she told the Transcript. “How hysterical my mother was when he came out of those doors; the look on my brother’s face — one of complete shock, like he’d touched an electric fence — and the blood on his shoes.”

She added, “When the first shot rang out, he had the wits and guts to help the teachers barricade the door [of the algebra classroom where the shooting occurred].”

A Scabland Productions' film crew members pack up their gear at the former Adams Memorial Middle School on Wednesday, July 10, 2013 following a day of shooting scenes for the short film 'February'. (Gillian Jones/North Adams Transcript)
A Scabland Productions’ film crew members pack up their gear at the former Adams Memorial Middle School on Wednesday, July 10, 2013 following a day of shooting scenes for the short film ‘February’. (Gillian Jones/North Adams Transcript)

Action was the name of the game at the Adams school building on Wednesday.

“I was a little bit nervous,” said 13-year-old actor Aidan Gasbarro, of Barrington, R.I., who played one of the two student victims.

But Gasbarro came around for his big scene, he said, describing how he’d deployed packets of fake blood as he became the target of cinematic shots, ‘fired’ by an electric .30-30 caliber hunting rifle.

“That was my favorite part,” he said.

Roughly 28 others among Wednesday’s young actors were local — some consummate professionals, Shuttleworth said.

“One kid even brought his resume,” Shuttleworth said. “He was like 12. He said, ‘Let’s work together again sometime’ and all I could say was, ‘Yeah, we’re going to.’ “

“There’s a working actor,” added Dan Shaked, one of the film’s lead actors.

In light of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., and the Boston Marathon bombings in April, Shuttleworth said it was difficult to find a community willing to step up and host the company, given the film’s subject matter.

But Berkshire Film and Media Collaborative’s Lauren Zink and Diane Pearlman became advocates, pointing the production company toward Adams and the recently abandoned Memorial School. They also helped provide local actors.

“We have a great dialogue, and a lot of interlinkage,” Town Administrator Jonathan Butler said Wednesday. “We’re very amenable to anything that helps to make Northern Berkshire a more viable economy.”

The town collected a small fee from the company for use of the school, and Adams-Cheshire Regional School District donated desks and other materials to the crew. Additionally, Selectman Michael Ouellette stopped by to show his support.

Shuttleworth and Shaked conceived of the project three years ago while sharing burgers in New York City’s Madison Park, after both had attended that city’s Tribeca Film Festival.

“My hope is to start a conversation about the people left behind [after such tragedies],” Shuttleworth said. “So often we focus on the shooter and not the kids and families, their brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins.”

Shaked plays the perpetrator of the shooting, Barry Dale Loukaitis, years down the road, in prison.

Earlier, the team shot at Nassau County Jail and Bronx, N.Y., and today some of them are off to Washington state to film more scenes.

They hope the final product will be accepted by festivals like Tribeca, Sundance, South By Southwest or others like them. Shuttleworth said they aim to wrap up by September.

BFMC's Diane Pearlman and Lauren Zink with Director Jessi Shuttleworth (center).
BFMC’s Diane Pearlman and Lauren Zink with Director Jessi Shuttleworth (center).

Roll credits 

Other actors and actresses appearing in “February”:

* Phyllis Somerville, who’s appeared in television and films including ‘The Sopranos,’ ‘Sex and the City,’ ‘The Big C,’ ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ and ‘Little Children’

* Patrick Husted, who’s appeared in television and films including ‘The Sopranos,’ ‘Law & Order,’ ‘Blow,’ ‘Gods Behaving Badly’ and ‘The Place Beyond the Pines’

* Ethan Philips, who’s film and television credits include ‘The Mentalist,’ ‘Star Trek: Voyager,’ ‘Green Card,’ ‘The Island’ and Coen Brothers project ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’


Story from the North Adams Transcript, by Phil Demers, Thursday, July 11, 2013.
Read another story, “Film Company Shoots Movie In Adams Middle School” from iBerkshires, by Andy McKeever, Thursday, July 10, 2013.

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