Schenectady rolls out the red carpet for 'Pines'
Stars, starstruck proud of movie, local contribution
SCHENECTADY Director Derek Cianfrance flashed a broad smile as he stepped into Bow Tie Cinemas’ Super Six — like he was walking into a room full of good friends he hadn’t seen in nearly two years.
Some played small roles in “The Place Beyond the Pines.” Others provided him with the real-life locations he needed to film around Schenectady in 2011.
For Cianfrance, each was instrumental in helping him mold the triptych crime drama that opens in theaters across the nation today. And in return, he wanted to bring a bit of Hollywood’s glitz back to the city that made his production possible.
More on 'Pines'
The following are stories contained in an April 5 special section:
“A lot of people helped out or were in different aspects of the movie, and that’s why we always wanted to bring it here,” he said from the red carpet premiere Thursday, “to let the people who made the movie have a piece of it, have a little celebration.”
Granted, the red carpet in Schenectady was a bit smaller and a lot less star-studded than the one for the New York City premiere. Emory Cohen, who plays A.J., was the only “Pines” star to appear at the premiere, while Bradley Cooper, who plays cop-turned-district attorney Avery Cross, appeared later.
Cooper, who arrived after the showing, drove more than 180 miles after wrapping up a project he was filming in Boston. He praised Cianfrance for turning the city into a living, breathing piece of “Pines.”
“Derek demanded that the city be a character in the movie and that it be authentic,” he said. “We had to rise to the level of authenticity.”
The absences of Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes — the film’s other major stars — didn’t detract from the celebratory mood of Schenectady’s premiere. Despite a chilling wind and intermittent rain, more than 100 people lingered outside the theater, cheering when Cohen, Cianfrance and other members of the production crew arrived.
Inside, they spoke glowingly of the community that opened its arms to the film. Cohen said he felt an obligation to return to Schenectady and felt a sense of homecoming when he arrived on State Street.
“It’s cool, it’s a trip,” the young actor said. “This community helped us so much and gave so much to the movie. ... I feel like we had to give back to the community in some way.”
The homecoming was real for some associated with the movie. Ben Coccio, who collaborated with Cianfrance to write the screenplay, graduated from Niskayuna High School and was part of the push to set “Pines” in Schenectady.
Coccio beamed as he stepped onto the red carpet, flanked by family members. He confessed he never thought he’d be at a major premiere anywhere, much less at one in the area where he grew up.
“I was on the red carpet for the New York City premiere, but this is way better,” he said. “This is my hometown, this is where the movie was set, this is where it was shot. ... If I don’t have any other experiences like this in my life, this will probably be enough.”
Shannon Plumb, Cianfrance’s wife and a Schenectady native, was equally awestruck to see the fanfare in the city where she grew up. Now an artist and filmmaker herself, she was proud to see the support her husband’s film seemed to draw from such a broad cross-section of the community.
“I imagined doing movies, but I never imagined it would happen this way [in Schenectady],” she said.
Boost for region
Only “Pines” was so much more than a movie to many in and around Schenectady. The film production provided an economic jolt at a time when many businesses were still struggling through the recession. Estimates suggest the production brought in more than $2 million. The hotel rooms alone brought more than $350,000.
The film also gave some a chance to realize what could lie ahead. Niskayuna High School junior Calvin O’Connor’s work with “Pines” put him in touch with Sean Bobbitt, a cinematographer, and then Coccio a year later — experiences that have convinced him to go to film school.
“It’s obviously very stressful with time and commitment,” he said of the film business, “but you can produce something spectacular and you can say you were part of that. I just find that amazing.”
Alex Pulling of Ballston Spa was given a small speaking role and met Cohen, who implored him to move to New York City to follow a career in film, while they were talking on set one night. Cohen helped connect the youth with several teachers who helped him get into acting — something he now takes pride in doing.
“He’s there right now,” Cohen said of Pulling, “and I’m really proud that kid is doing it. It takes a lot of guts. I think he’ll do something in this world.”
Others were just happy to be a part of something that has left such a lasting impression on the community. Stephen Ritzko found himself a reluctant participant in the film when the production crew asked to use his Glenville business, M&S Cycles,
A guest at the premiere, the gruff motorcycle racer and mechanic cocked a smile at the notion of playing a small part in a major film — his own small brush with Hollywood. And he predicted the others who appeared in the scene at his garage might find similar pride in their success with “Pines.”
“Well, I figure my co-star is probably going to do OK,” he said, grinning. “You know, Ryan Gosling.”