1000 Islands, Bob Dylan, Bye Bye Love, Celebrity Mystery Theater, filmmaking, Forrest Gump, Girl from the North Country, Jason Langstaff, Johnny Cash, Lighthouse Point, Matt George, North Country, North Country Now, Ogdensburg NY, Seaway Festival, short films, Spaghetti Warehouse Dallas, St. Lawrence University, The Breakfast Brew, The Preacher's Daughter, The Wil Hansen Show, Thousand Islands, Wil Hansen
In 1963, Bob Dylan released a song called “Girl from the North Country.” I heard the 1969 duet version with Johnny Cash recently while watching Silver Linings Playbook and it reminded me that the song, however beautiful and moving, is most likely not about the area I call home. That mostly rural and very large chunk of New York State includes the Seaway Valley, the 1000 Islands, the Champlain Valley, the Adirondack Mountains and much more.
In July 2012, I directed and acted in a short film while visiting my homeland of St. Lawrence County. I gathered a few friends to help me make DIG IT UP, a story of a man who returns home after years to find a treasure runs into trouble instead. We shot it at Lighthouse Point in Ogdensburg in one day not long before the start of the Seaway Festival, an annual summertime tradition there.
The joy of making a film at home was like nothing else I have ever experienced. To be able to bring skills home and share what I’ve learned with my friends on set felt wonderful. It also sparked ideas about a future return when I could make a feature film, perhaps even starring some recognizable names.
I remember growing up there feeling like the world of filmmaking was a million miles away. Even though I went on to study acting nearby at St. Lawrence University, the idea of acting professionally was still very much a mystery. The closest I got to it in the mid-90’s was working at a video store in Canton and a movie theater in Potsdam. I can’t tell you how many times I watched Bye Bye Love. I do recall the film breaking during a showing of Forrest Gump in its re-release. Stressful!
2013 marks the 18 years since I traded selling movie tickets and popcorn for selling radio ads in Ogdensburg. The move out of the “movie business” would put me on a path to becoming a radio host, TV weatherman, TV news producer, TV program producer and a variety of other things before I found the door to acting truly open once again. My travels would take me eventually to Texas in 2001, but I have never lost my love for home or the people who still live there.
I relish the opportunity to share successes with them, but I believe they give me the bigger gift. That’s the gift of remembering where I came from. It takes me back to being young and dreaming of someday doing these things I get to do now, whether it’s an independent film, a TV commercial or a live murder mystery show.
Staying in touch is a way to keep that connection strong. I’ve been blessed to share my latest acting news in a variety of ways in the last week. It started with chatting with The Breakfast Brew radio hosts last week, continued with a news article in NorthCountryNow.com and finally a segment taped for The Wil Hansen Show. I feel each opportunity is way for me to say thank you for the abundance of support that comes now and the influences that started a long time ago.