The film will be shot in many locations in and around Harlan. Every morning on the drive to the location, we follow the bright yellow signs, black arrows directing us to Crew Parking and Set. My favorite is a simple yellow sign that says “TEH.” I’m so grateful they didn’t change the title.
Today, we’re not too far from town, outside Lacy’s house. It’s a sunny, cold morning. Mountains rise up around us, most of the trees still green but a few starting to flash a mix of golden and scarlet leaves.
Lacy’s house is “small but proud,” according to the script (written by Elizabeth Palmore). Neat lawn, a few potted plants and flowers on the porch. Subaru wagon in the driveway, anti-MTR (mountaintop removal coal mining) stickers plastered to the bumper. Kerry Bishé is perfect as Lacy, the single mom and smart environmentalist Cole falls for. In this scene, she’s with her daughter, a local Harlan kid, who looks like Kerry. As they’re coming out of the house, Cole pulls up in his pickup. This is late in the screenplay. He’s been in a fight—and the makeup department head, Anouck Sullivan expertly applies various shades of red and brown make up and fake blood to his face and shirt. He looks rough and beat up, his knuckles swollen and scraped up.
This scene is short, a single page of dialogue, with only about 8 lines between Cole and Lacy, but it’s still a dramatic, haunting scene. I’m again enthralled by the emotions the actors carry in their voices, eyes, mouths, body language.
As the camera focuses on Cole, a man about fifty feet away crosses the street to talk to his neighbor. They chat, out of ear-shot, but in the frame. Background. I’m becoming more accustomed to seeing them, but my first day on set, they kept throwing me off—I watched one guy walk across the parking lot during the middle of the shoot and thought it was a mistake, that he didn’t realize where he was. But then they shot the scene again and he walked across the parking lot again, and then it clicked.
The background actors are locals who came to the open casting call at the mini-mall, and were called back. Screenwriter Elizabeth Palmore tells me, “You’ll never watch a movie or TV show the same way, without seeing the extras.” And, it’s true—later in the week, I’m watching a TV show, paying attention to the extras: behind the scenes, they’re being directed to talk or walk or sit a certain way, adding texture and helping to create suspension of disbelief. It’s fascinating to think about from a fiction writer’s perspective: finding the texture, the composition.
I try to stand out of the way, coffee in my hands, breath cold in the air. I’m the only one here with nothing to do—I just get to watch. I’ll talk about the many jobs and roles in a film in a later entry, but I do want to say: there are many necessary spokes in the film wheel. To shoot a film really does take a village, and the one for The Evening Hour is a village of hardworking, smart, dedicated people. Everyone I’ve met is giving it their all, trying to make something special.