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Wednesday, June 5, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Screenwriter Bill Kauffman and film director Ron Maxwell discuss 'Copperhead'

post by Daniel Crofts in arts, batavia, bill kauffman, GCC, GoArt!, movies

Next week, Hollywood comes to Batavia.

GoArt!, in partnership with local author Bill Kauffman -- author of such books as "Dispatches from the Muckdog Gazette" and "Look Homeward America" -- and filmmaker Ronald F. Maxwell -- director of the Civil War epics "Gettysburg" and "Gods and Generals" -- will host a screening of the movie "Copperhead" on Thursday, June 13. 

This will give locals a chance to see the film before its official release in theaters on June 28.

"Copperhead" takes place in Upstate New York during the Civil War. Kauffman wrote the screenplay, based the novel "The Copperhead" by Harold Frederic, and Maxwell directed it.

Both men will be at the screening, and the movie will be followed by a short presentation by Kauffman and a Q&A session with Kauffman and Maxwell.

In anticipation of the screening, they spoke with The Batavian about the project itself, their collaboration over the years, among other things.

(To Ron): I understand you have been a longtime fan of Bill Kauffman. So this is a two-part question:

A. When and how did you first discover his work?
B. When and how did you two come into contact?

Ron: Actually the second thing happened first. We both attended an event in Washington, D.C. --- at which he spoke -- sometime in the mid-1990s. I was impressed with his wit, with his use of language, his sense of humor, and his insight, and that started a long friendship. I subsequently read his writings, and we stayed in touch over the years. 

Bill: “Copperhead” was actually my second screenplay. The first one was a project that Ron and I started developing several years ago. This was also an historical film, and it almost made it into development but didn't. We still hope it will someday. So "Copperhead" was my second screenplay, but it was the first to be produced.

(To both): What drew you to this material?

Bill: I probably first read the book 25 or more years ago. Harold Frederic was one of the great Upstate New York novelists. In fact his most well-known book, "The Damnation of Theron Ware," was hailed by F. Scott Fitzgerald as the best American novel before 1920.

Edmund Wilson, the great literary critic, praised Frederic's "Civil War Stories" for being unlike any other Civil War fiction. There's no Southern "moonlight and magnolias" romanticism, and there's no Northern "Battle Hymn of the Republic" righteousness; these are hard, unsentimental but very poignant stories of life in the North -- specifically Upstate New York -- on the home front during the war...the people left behind.

And this particular story, "The Copperhead," is about a farmer, a respected man, in a little hamlet in Upstate New York -- he's an old-fashioned Democrat who is against the war. And he is standing up, really, against his community on this. The community is torn apart, his family and the family of his chief rival are torn apart. So these people are casualties of the war in a different way.

The film is also, I think, about the resilience and resourcefulness of the people at home during wartime. It's a rich and complex story about our area, for one, and also about a fascinating time in American history.

Ron: As soon as I read it I thought, "Wow, this would be a terrific subject for a film." And I kind of ruminated for a while until about three and a half years ago, when it came up in conversation with Bill over dinner in Connecticut. I think he mentioned it first, but we both knew the novel and admired it. It was very interesting to me to explore the whole issue of the dissenters in society -- especially within the context of the Civil War, because I had already explored the reasons why good men chose to go to war in the other films, whether they wore blue or gray. Here was a film where you could explore why a good, ethical man chose not to go to war. It's the other side of the coin.

(To Bill): How was the screenwriting process different from the process of writing a book?

Bill: It’s a whole different style of writing. Writing a book is very much a solitary endeavor, although there is give-and-take with the editor. Movies are totally collaborative ventures. Even with the screenplay, Ron and I consulted throughout. Ron has a great sense for how to tell a story. So it was a very harmonious collaboration -- he's a great guy, and we work well together.

(To Ron): You wrote the scripts for both "Gettysburg" and "Gods and Generals." Why did you choose to have Bill write this one?

Ron: Well, as I said, it came up over a dinner, and by that time he and I had collaborated on the earlier project that he wrote. So I knew that he could do it. And I think part of the dynamic there is that when you write a screenplay, you need to focus big time and stop doing everything else.  At the time we started to talk about "Copperhead," I was totally immersed in something else, so I could not write the screenplay myself even if I wanted to. But I knew he could. So I worked with him, you know, in the way that a director-filmmaker works with a writer. We closely collaborated on it, but he in fact did the writing. A lot of times in Hollywood there are shared credits when a director works with the writer, but I'm a strong believer that the writer gets the credit. Because the writer is doing the work.

So, just as on the earlier screenplay, we collaborated but Bill adapted the novel. And I knew that his sensibilities would be very responsive to it. It takes place, as you know, in Upstate New York. And Bill was not only aware of this novel, but he had read other works of Harold Frederic.

In a sense, Bill is a regionalist. He's very aware of where he lives -- not just of how it is now, but of its history and literary traditions. So he was already connected to the history of this part of the world, and to Harold Frederic specifically. So of all the writers in the world, he was probably the most perfectly adapted to work out the screenplay.

If you know Bill's other work, one of his preoccupations is small town America. He has made the choice to live in small town America because he thinks that that's where American values are embodied and where the "simpler life" can be lived. That's a theme that runs through all of his nonfiction, and is certainly one of the themes of this particular story. One of the things ("Copperhead") explores is living in a rural community. I'm sure it was much more rural, with a much smaller population, back then than it is now. But again, Bill was predisposed to understanding and exploring the values of these people.

(To Bill): Were you a fan of Ron's films before this?

Oh yeah, absolutely. He's the great cinematic interpreter of the Civil War. This is his third Civil War film, but it's on a different scale. ("Gettysburg" and "Gods and Generals") had scenes with thousands of extras colliding on the great battlefields -- they were Civil War films set behind the lines.

Were you intimidated by the prospect of writing a script for him after seeing the scope of his previous films?

Bill: Well, you know, I might have been, but we had known each other. We're friends, so in that sense it was comfortable. But it was a challenge. I like challenges, and I have over the years read a lot of screenplays in preparation for this film. I'd read a number of screenplays of films that I like very much -- everything from Paul Schrader's script for "Taxi Driver" to Graham Greene's screenplay for "The Third Man." So I had an idea of how to do it, and Ron was an invaluable guide to picking up the form and grammar of a screenplay.

(To Ron): Had you ever in your life heard of Batavia before meeting Bill?

Ron: No, and I wasn't even sure whether to say Bat-ah-via or Bat-ay-via. But I guess it's like that Cole Porter song, "You say tom-ay-to, I say tom-ah-to."

(To Bill): Are there any local connections in "Copperhead"?

Bill: There is one specifically Batavia reference -- it's a little bit of an inside joke -- early in the film. Some folks will pick up on it. But I can't tell you anymore.

Also, my daughter, Gretel, and the daughter of one of the producers have cameos in the film.  It's during the barn dance scene -- look for the "giggling girls."

(To Bill): Did you have chance to visit the location shoots in Canada? If so, what was this like?

Bill: I was there for about four to seven weeks. I went up a couple different times. I got a real kick out of watching these characters that existed on paper become real. And it's funny, because some of the characters ended up looking very different from how I thought they'd look. But I think the actors really brought to life and enriched the story with their own contributions. They did a lot of studying, put a lot of thought into the roles, and I think it shows on the screen.

(On Ron as a director): You hear stories of these tyrannical, dictatorial directors, but Ron is nothing at all like that. He's very much in control, and the production is well run. But he listens to people, everyone gets along, and it's very harmonious. He does a lot of planning (before production), and that shows in that there's a real efficiency about it. It was shot over about seven weeks, and there were no wasted days. They worked from sunup to sundown. It was very impressive.

(To Bill): I understand the actors were instructed to study your Western New York accent.  What was that experience like?

Bill: (Laughs) Yes, they had a dialect coach from Canada who did a great job with them. We don't have any tapes of what people in Upstate New York sounded like in 1862, so one of the things she did -- unbeknownst to me -- was send them videotapes of speeches of mine. So it was kind of fun on the set when actors would come up to me and ask, "How do you say 'apple'? How do you say 'orange'?" Of course, we're not aware of our accents. To us, we speak normally and everyone else has an accent. And when someone asks you to pronounce something, inevitably a little bit of self-consciousness creeps into you, you know? You exaggerate whatever little accent you might have. But yeah, that was a lot of fun. And fortunately, they do not all sound like me (laughs). They develop their own accents and styles of speaking.

(To Ron): Many of the actors in "Copperhead" are a bit less well-known than a lot of movie stars out there. Was this an artistic decision on your part?

Ron: Yes, very much so, insofar as you want (as a filmmaker) to be able to have the creative freedom to cast the way you want. We made a decision early on that we were not going to chase the movie stars. Because then you're always at the mercy of their schedules, their price tags, and competing for their time with the major studios. So suddenly you're not in control of your own movie. And I've played that game, so I know that game. We wanted to be independent and just cast the movie the best way we knew we could, make the movie we wanted to make, hope that it would stand on its own merits, and get it to the public. 

The reason people get the big stars is because those stars will get the movie financed and distributed. It's a simple formula. So if you think you can have alternate ways of getting the movie financed and distributed, then that allows you artistic freedom.

(To both): How did the upcoming screening/fundraiser come about?

Ron: We thought, as part of our marketing and promotion of the movie, that it would behoove us to do a number of screenings across the country to help generate word of mouth and grassroots support of the film. And we thought, "What better way than to ally with charitable organizations?" So we looked for charitable organizations that we could feel comfortable supporting, and we have about 18 or 19 of these all across the country.

Bill: The producers asked me about having one of the screenings in Batavia, and I of course jumped at the chance. And I thought GoArt! would be a great organization (to support), and they were enthusiastic about sponsoring.

(To Ron): What interests you about the Civil War Era as a filmmaker?

RM: Well, you know, I was drawn to it so many years ago now...it took me 15 years from the time I read (Michael Shaara's) "The Killer Angels" (the book on which "Gettysburg" is based) until the time "Gettysburg" was released in the theaters. I didn't know it was going to take 15 years, and I certainly didn't know I would spend another 10 years making "God and Generals," and then another 10 years before I could make "Copperhead." That's a lot of years altogether -- it's a big chunk of anyone's life to spend on one historical period. It's not like I set out to do that, it just kind of happened that way.

But along the way I came to realize that it has been a deep and abiding interest. It's just endlessly fascinating, and these are stories that have been very compelling to me. I have other kinds of projects I've been working on -- I have a Western I've been working on, a project on Joan of Arc, contemporary films...I'm always juggling them and trying to get them financed like other filmmakers. But it's just kind of worked out that "Gettysburg" led to "Gods and Generals," which led to "Copperhead." A lot of that is my own focus and my own energy, but some of it is serendipitous.

(To Bill): What draws you to writing about small town America?

BK: Well, it's where I've spent most of my life -- it's where I am now. To me, Batavia was always a source of fascination. Every story you could tell was on its streets and in its buildings. 

It's not that people in small towns are better than people in big cities. But I think because of the smallness and intimacy of the scale, it's a place where the individual can matter. In the anonymity of the big cities and suburbs, sometimes the individual can get lost in the crowd. To me, life in a small town seems more real, more immediate. I also think that small towns get the short shrift, both culturally and politically. It's unexplored territory.

(To both): Do you have any words of advice or encouragement for readers who might be aspiring toward successful careers in writing or filmmaking?

Bill: Words of advice for aspiring writers? I guess I'd say Read Read Read Read Read. Persevere. And don't get discouraged.

Ron: Well the most important thing is for aspiring filmmakers to develop and protect their own voice -- and not kind of mimic, copy, cater, pander or be what they think someone else wants them to be, what Hollywood wants them to be, or what any third party wants them to be.  Because then they are wasting their own time and everyone else's. If they can hold onto that little voice inside them that is their unique voice, that's the most important thing. That's what we want to hear and watch.

The screening of "Copperhead" will take place at Genesee Community College's Stuart Steiner Theatre, at 1 College Road in Batavia, and start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 for GoArt! members and $25 for non-members.

For more information or to purchase tickets, go to www.goart.org/events.php#Copperhead or call 343-9313.

Supplemental: "Copperhead" trailer

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vo-j4_05bcI]

Photo of Ronald F. Maxwell directing courtesy of George Nicholis.

Sunday, October 7, 2012 at 3:15 pm

GoArt! recognizes community members dedicated to local arts and culture

post by Daniel Crofts in arts, community, GoArt!

Genesee/Orleans Regional Arts Council (GoArt!) held its Community Awards Gala last night at Terry Hills Banquet Facility. Honorees Linda Blanchet (Board of Directors Special Recognition Award), Patrick Burk, Lorie Longhany, Medina Sandstone Society (represented by Craig Lacy and Robert Waters) and Chris Busch are pictured.

Bill McDonald, center, was another award winner. He performed for the event with "The Old Hippies" -- Jim Sweet, Kay McMahon and James Catino (Bill Pitcher, far right, is not a member of "The Old Hippies," but presented the award to McDonald).

The other winners (not pictured) were the Holland Land Office Museum, the Le Roy Barn Quilt Project and the Mason Family.

Assemblyman Stephen Hawley was Master of Ceremonies for this 12th annual gala honoring community members in Genesee and Orleans Counties who give of their time, talents and treasure to enrich the artistic and cultural atmosphere of their community.

Genesee County

Patrick Burk was recognized for his contributions to community theater and, in particular, for giving the Batavia Players a new and permanent home with the Harvester 56 Theater.

Norm Argulsky, who presented the award to Burk, credited him with introducing Batavia to "the idea of a theater season," which allows people to know ahead of time what shows will be performed over the course of an entire year.

The Holland Land Office Museum was recognized for "enlivening local history and culture through exhibits, engagement and exploration" (as worded in the event program). Museum Director Jeffrey Donahue and Board of Directors Member Jim Dusen accepted the award.

Jim Owen, also on the museum's board of directors, lauded HLOM for "keeping history alive in Genesee County."

"It's very important that people don't forget our history," he said, "because without history our future might be pretty dim."

Lorie Longhany was honored for her passionate commitment to sharing her love of art with "the young and the young at heart" (Longhany's words), inspiring many young people to pursue careers in the arts and many senior citizens to explore their creativity.

Bill McDonald -- aka "Wild Bill" -- a local musician, was honored "for selflessly performing and promoting music and art, now and for the future."

When presenting the award to McDonald, Pitcher called him "a genuine troubadour."

The Mason family, a family of talented artists whose work has drawn national recognition, and whose paintings can be seen in buildings throughout Genesee County (including United Memorial Medical Center, Bank of America, and the Holland Land Office Museum), were awarded for their contribution to the cultural vitality of our area.

Max and Jane Mason were to receive the award for the family, but they could not attend. Beth Carr accepted the award on their behalf.

The Le Roy Barn Quilt Project, which showcases locally embroidered quilts on barns throughout Le Roy, received an award for "blazing a colorful trail to share (Le Roy's) rural heritage through public art."

Linda Blanchet, former GoArt! president and recipient of the GoArt! Board of Directors Special Recognition Award, was recognized "for dedication, drive and direction in pursuit of shining a spotlight on the arts in Genesee and Orleans counties."

It is worth noting that Burk, in his acceptance speech, credited Blanchet in a special way for getting him back into local theater after he had been away from the stage for 10 years.

Orleans County

Chris Busch, a member of the Orleans County Renaissance Group, achieved recognition "for passion and commitment to bringing cultural experiences into the community."

The Medina Sandstone Society received an award "for embracing the natural as a 'cornerstone' of culture, founding a tradition of community pride."

Guests at the event included representatives from National Grid, Turnbull Heating, Air Conditioning & Refrigeration, O-AT-KA Milk Products, Roxy's Music Store, NYSARC and GCASA, among others.

For more information on GoArt! and its programs and services, call 343-9313, e-mail info@goart.org or visit www.goart.org.

Supplemental note on the Holland Land Office Museum

In his acceptance speech, Donahue mentioned that the museum now has the "V" from the old Batavia Downs sign. People who have driven by and seen it hanging for many years can now go to the museum to "see it in person," says Donahue.

Photos

Lastly, here are samples of the artwork included in the gala's silent auction:

"Holland Land Office" by Lorie Longhany.

"Hand-painted Autumn Leaf Pottery," donated by Kelly Kiebala.

"Barn on Country Road" by Tom Zangerle.

"Iris with Fence" by Dan Cherry.

"Framed & Matted Print" by Brandi Bruggman.

"School's Out" by Diane Phalen.

"Halloween Wall Hanging" by Linda Kozubal.

Sunday, March 18, 2012 at 2:07 pm

GoArt! members and non-members display artwork -- some for sale

post by Daniel Crofts in batavia, art, artists, GoArt!, photos, senior center

GoArt! hosted its first GoArt! Members Exhibition on Friday, along with its first Digital Art Exhibit. Both are intended to become annual events.

The above ink-on-canvas painting is called "Fiscal Policy" and was painted by Kevin Hammon, who lives just north of Le Roy. It was on sale for $350.

Here is Hammon with another of his canvas works, "Moon Light Drive-In" ($125).

Below are some of the other paintings on display at Seymour Place.

Oil painting: "Wolf Creek at Letchworth" by Rick Ellingham ($275).

Oil painting: "Route 5" by Joseph Deni ($400).

Kevin Feary, of Batavia, stands beside his oil-on-muslin painting, "Short Order Cook" ($580).

Artist (and City Councilwoman) Rose Mary Christian stands next to her untitled acrylic (not for sale) with Linda Sforno (left) and Roelene Christian.

"Country Cottage Needlepoint" by Joan E. Rotondo ($238).

Watercolor: "Sinking Ponds" by Rita M. Hammond ($50).



Pencil: "Silent Communication" by Judy Wenrich ($175).

Glass art: "Dragonfly Wide Bowl" by Heather Whitney ($100).

Glass art: "Peacock Bowl" by Heather Whitney ($120).

Acrylic and paper: "Night Out" by Kimberly A. Argenta ($100).

Acrylic: "National Geographic: Stampede" by Carole LaValley ($225).

Oil on muslin: "Upton Monument" by Kevin Feary ($580).

Oil: "Rusted & Weathered" by Rick Ellingham ($200).

Connie Mosher, of Albion, stands next to her Arizona-inspired oil painting, "Rugs on a Railing Near Sedona, AZ" ($500).

Pastel: "Alzheimer's--the Ultimate Identity Theft," by Sharon Jahnke Long (not for sale).

Earthenware, slips, glaze: "Cityscape II" by Moi Dugan ($425).

Pastel: "Twoo Wuv" by Sharon Jahnke Long (not for sale).

Woodcut: "Angus" by Rita Hammond ($50).

Clay: "Covered Jar with Wheat" by Jean Grinnell (SOLD).

Long Stitch: "Tiger Walk" by Joan E. Rotondo ($238).

To find out which of these--and other--photos are still for sale, contact Robin Upson, administrative assistant at GoArt!, at 343-9313, or email info@goart.org.

As this was going on, a reception for non-members' digital art was held next door at GoArt!'s satellite gallery in the Batavia Senior Center.

"Study in Perspective" by Natalie Buczek ($10).

"Katie" by Byron-Bergen ninth-grader Katelyn Simmons (not for sale).

"Guitar Rock" by Susan Meier ($45).

"Let It Be" by Daniel Cherry ($40).

Cherry displays his work, "Broken Treaties," with his sons, Jimmy and Daniel.

The digital artwork will be on display until April 27 at the senior center, at 2 Bank St. in Batavia. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.

For information, contact Joe Langen at jlangen@goart.org.

Sunday, October 3, 2010 at 4:06 pm

Photos: GoArt! presents annual community arts awards

post by Howard B. Owens in awards, GoArt!

goart05.jpg

GoArt! presented seven recipients with community arts awards at its annual gala Saturday night at the Batavia Party House in Stafford.

Besides the awards, the event featured live music, a Chinese auction, raffle prizes -- including a $5,000 diamond and sapphire ring -- and a buffet dinner.

Community arts awards went to James Catino, Cobblestone Society Museum, Evelyn Lyman (pictures above), Rosaline "Roz" Hayes (posthumously) and Brad London, with special recognition awards going to the Genesee County Master Gardeners and Bob Terry (for details on the winners, click here).

More pictures after the jump:

Sunday, October 3, 2010 at 1:18 pm

Jim Nigro at GoArt! for new book signing and party

post by Billie Owens in fiction, GoArt!, Jim Nigro

The Batavian's outdoor columnist Jim Nigro will be at GoArt! beginning at 6:30 p.m. Thursday to sell and sign copies of his first novel.

"Tapestry: A Life Walk Among Friends" is the story of two friends growing up in a small town much like Batavia in the 1950s, '60s and '70s. Most of it is drawn from his real-life experiences.

The event is at Seymour Place, located at 201 E. Main St. in downtown Batavia. Everyone is welcome!

Event Date and Time

October 7, 2010 - 6:30pm - 8:00pm
Thursday, September 2, 2010 at 8:29 pm

GoArt! hosts 'Art Trail'

post by Daniel Crofts in events, GoArt!

GoArt!'s 2010 artist road show will feature the work of various artists throughout Genesee County. It is free and open to the public.

They will be opening up their studios and galleries to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 18. Music and refreshments will be provided at some of the sites.

A map of participating locations will be available at GoArt!, on E. Main St. in Batavia, and at each site the week before the event.

More details to follow. Please call GoArt! at 343-9313 or visit www.goart.org for more information.

Event Date and Time

September 18, 2010 - 10:00am - 4:00pm
Thursday, August 19, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Demo of ancient art of 'wax encaustics' at GoArt!

post by Billie Owens in events, GoArt!, linda metcalf

The Batavia Society of Artists will have a demonstration by an artist from 7 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 14 at GoArt!, located at 201 E. Main St.

The artist is Linda Metcalf, known by many for her vibrant work in watercolors. This time however, she will be demonstrating and displaying some of her work in "wax encaustics."

Wax encaustic art work dates back to 800 B.C. To explain this art form briefly, the word encaustic means to “burn in” and the technique uses pigmented beeswax.

The event is open to the public. Cost is $3 for nonmembers.

Event Date and Time

September 14, 2010 - 7:00pm - 9:00pm
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