Featured in the Reading Eagle
Of Note

Featured in the Reading Eagle

"Townies" producers Brett Bagenstose, John Carmello, Gordon Holmes, and Robert Trate were photographed and interviewed for the Friday, September 26, 2003 issue of "The Reading Eagle". The article documented the trials and tribulations of independent filmmaking in Reading, PA. A follow-up article, discussing the cast and crew screening, is expected in the Monday, September 29, 2003 issue.

Bagenstose also had an opportunity to discuss the film during the Friday, September 26, 2003 broadcast of the "Channel 69 News". The Reading-based news organization interviewed Bagenstose at the Fairgrounds Cinema Center, the venue for the screening.

For more information on Neo-Pangea's "Townies" including scenes, trailers, production stills, bios, and more, visit www.areyouatownie.com.

Photo Courtesy Matthew J. Sroka — Reading Eagle


Local filmmakers Robert Trate, from left, John Carmello, Brett Bagenstose and Gordon Holmes shot their film "Townies" at various locations in Berks County.

Locals shoot film 'Townies'
Described as "Jackass" meets "Great Expectations," the movie is the brainchild of four Berks County friends who began a production company about a decade ago. They are readying their first full-length movie for entry into film festivals.

By Stephanie Caltagirone
Reading Eagle Correspondent

You might not think of Berks County as a Mecca for moviemaking, but local filmmakers Brett Bagenstose, John Carmello, Gordon Holmes and Robert Trate aren't your typical movie moguls. They're four friends who are readying their first full-length feature for entry into film festivals.

"Townies" was shot at various locations in Berks County and tells the story of Jake (Tim Bensch), a pizza delivery guy/seven-year college student who must choose between his long-time friends or a promising career and the girl of his dreams.

"We're describing it as 'Jackass' meets 'Great Expectations,'" Bagenstose said. "It's a class struggle between the office and the pizza parlor. Jake is in the last year of college, struggling with where his life is going." Bagenstose wrote, directed, edited and executive produced the film. Carmello assisted the director, coordinated the soundtrack, managed locations and also is an executive producer. Trate was production manager, second assistant director, wardrobe master and set decorator. Holmes worked as assistant writer, acting coach and has a small role in the film.

They also hired professionals for lighting, sound and documentation to record their experience. Neo-Pangea, based in Shillington, funded the entire $100,000 production.

"We wanted to create things ourselves," Bagenstose said. "We don't want to work in anyone else's shadow." Ranging in age from 26 to 29, the four Wilson High School graduates, who all live in Berks County, formed their production company, Neo-Pangea, about 10 years ago.

During the past decade, they have collaborated on animated and live-action short films, including the sci-fi thriller "Gabriel 6" and the Flash animation choose-your-own-path film "The Break-up Simulator." They also produced the Ace Award-winning Berks Cable sketch-comedy program "The Recliners" while working day jobs to pay the bills.

Carmello paints houses. Holmes is a copywriter for QVC. Trate is a waiter and Bagenstose designs Web sites for various companies.

When they raised enough money, they began work on their first feature film.

Bagenstose had been working on the screenplay for years, but finished the final draft of the script early last year.

When it came time to cast the film, they put out a casting call on acting Web sites and looked through 600 headshots in four weeks. After trimming down the list, they auditioned actors.

"We knew when we saw (Bensch, Ernest Waddell, Nakia Dillard and Jonah Spear) together that they were it," Bagenstose said.

"It was kind of cool having actors from New York and L.A. come here (to Berks County)," Holmes said. "A lot of them were in culture shock. We were concerned about how we came off to professional actors. We take pride in the production."

Over the course of six summer weekends in 2002, they shot the 265-page script, which translated into 265 minutes of film, well over the normal running time of a comedy.

"We shot every single page," Bagenstose said.

"Then we had to go back and cut," Holmes said. "That was the depressing part."

They filmed in 17 locations throughout Berks County, including the Pagoda, Frank's Pizza in Sinking Spring and the former Army-Navy Store in Muhlenberg Township.

"It was a little shocking for people when we walked in and asked if we could film (at their business)," Carmello said. "For the most part, people were approachable. But a couple people didn't realize what filming would entail."

"Through personal contacts in the area, we were able to get what we needed," Trate said.

After a year of post-production, the film is almost ready to be entered in film festivals. An almost-final version will be shown to invited guests on Saturday night at Cinema Center Fairgrounds.

After they finish the film, the founders of Neo-Pangea will look for their next project.

"Our plate is pretty open," Bagenstose said. "We don't want to get typecast."

Contact Stephanie Caltagirone at [email protected]