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Garnet Hill Lodge film premiered

Zack Bernstein, center, and two unidentified men pose for photos at the film premiere.

Zack Bernstein, center, and two unidentified men pose for photos at the film premiere.

— More than 100 people packed the Tannery Pond Community Center the evening of Friday, Sept. 6 to see the local premiere of “Approaching Normal,” an independent film shot in and around North River. Yet the main character could not make it, for obvious reasons.

The Garnet Hill Lodge stayed home in North River for the show.

The lodge, owned and operated by Don Preuninger and Mindy Piper, was not only the setting for this film, it was indeed a main character. While the actors could have been interchanged to fit their characters, this story was designed to take place at Garnet Hill.

“I filmed at Garnet Hill because my family stayed there probably 20 years ago,” said writer/director Zack Bernstein, a junior at Emerson College in Boston who is studying film production. “I saw some pictures and did some research. We looked around because we didn’t expect to actually get the original location that the story is based off of. Even though the story is fictionalized and the characters are fictionalized, the location isn’t.”

Bernstein, his actors and crew — all Emerson students or alumni — spent three weeks filming at Garnet Hill Lodge in 2012. Shooting began on May 21 and ended June 6. They used the lodge itself, the property and adjoining Thirteenth Lake for scenes. The lodge and landscape became as much a part of the film as did the story. About 60 percent of the film was shot outdoors.

Bernstein joined the Garnet Hill Lodge owners to present this private screening at Tannery Pond because many locals were involved with the production as extras. And it was satisfying to see the reactions from the audience.

“It was nice to kind of do what we can to give back and see their reactions,” Bernstein said. “A lot of them have a relationship to the locations that we shot in, so sometimes they would laugh because things that we wrote in the script actually happened in those various locations. Some of them worked there. Some of them worked there 10 years ago.”

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