Featured in Berks County Living
You're now holding the December 2002 issue of this Berks-based publication. Quick, turn to page 20! Why it's an article about Neo-Pangea's "Townies". This article chronicles the trials and tribulations producers Brett Bagenstose, John Carmello, Gordon Holmes, and Bob Trate went through during the filming of Neo-Pangea's first-ever feature-length production. Neo-Pangea would like to thank the good folks at "Berks County Living" for their fine feature!
FROM BERKS COUNTY LIVING:
Their names are not plastered all over the pages of Variety yet, but Brett Bagenstose, John Carmello, Robert Trate, and Gordon Holmes of Shillington's Neo-Pangea have big hopes for their first feature film, Townies. A digital comedy shot in and around the Reading area this summer, Townies revolves around a pizza delivery boy who has come to a crossroads in his life. The film poses the question, "Does true happiness come from having what you want, or from wanting what you have?"
Why did Neo-Pangea choose Berks County for its film? According to Writer/Producer/Director Bagenstose, Berks offers a filmmaker locations ranging from colonial to modern, a supportive police department, and convenient access to Philadelphia and New York. These particular filmmakers grew up in Berks County, and Assistant Director Carmello believes that they had help from area businesses and organizations "that it would have been impossible to get without roots." Specific supporters included A & N Outfitters in Wyomissing, the Cumru police department, Frank's Pizza in Sinking Spring, and Horrigan BMW and AC Moore, both in Shillington. Family and friends helped the crew in securing locations—including their own homes!—and providing moral support. "It's ironic that we're referred to as ‘independent' filmmakers, considering how dependent we are on the community for support," Bagenstose mused.
When asked about filming in the town he grew up in, Trate, who served as Production Manager/Continuity Director on the project, observed, "Bringing the character and feel of Reading and Berks County to an outside audience is thrilling for a Reading Phillies fan like me."
There were some challenges, of course. Before the crew began filming, Trate remembers, "so many people said to Brett, ‘You can't make a movie in Reading! You make movies in Hollywood. You'll never get anything off the ground!'" Once production began, curious passersby and "residents concerned about [an unusual looking] car with a camera hanging out the window driving up and down their block" added to the challenges.
Because Neo-Pangea is a small production company, few people had to accomplish many tasks. "Every weekend was like going to war," Bagenstose remembers. "Many nights the intensity of the shoot gave us cold sweats."
"Producing a feature like ours gives you a surreal to-do list," Carmello explains. "One night I called actors, assembled mailboxes, edited legal release forms, tried to book a heavy metal act, and drove around trying to borrow eight grocery carts."
It takes an exceptional group of people to pull off a project the size of Townies, and Neo-Pangea is indeed an exceptional group. When they met, they were a bunch of kids taping a weekly show, Wacky Weather, at Wilson High School. Later, they developed a sketch comedy program called The Recliners, gaining exposure and valuable experience through Berks Cable public access.
They soon ventured into movie making. "Our first films were made in my mom's basement after school on a camera I bought after a summer of working at the Dairy Queen," Bagenstose remembers.
After Bagenstose graduated from film school at Temple University, he returned to the Reading area and formed Neo-Pangea, which, in addition to Carmello, Trate, and Holmes, includes "co-conspirators and collaborators" from his Berks Cable days and his later professional life.
Neo-Pangea has gained recognition over the past few years for its film, video, animation, and Internet creations. The Big Fun Show won an honorable mention in Playboy Magazine's Comix and Animation Contest, and Gabriel 6, a sci-fi digital short, received Temple's Derek Freese Award and the Jury Prize at the Atlantic City Film Festival.
Bagenstose, who wrote Townies over about five years, says he never considered having someone else make the film. "We want to be filmmakers. And the way to do that is by actually making films. I couldn't see being so attached to a story for so many years of your life then just letting it go for a paycheck. Art shouldn't work like that."
The company plans to complete post-production by early next year, after which they will start the film festival circuit. Acting Coach/Associate Producer Holmes feels confident about Townies' success: "We have a funny script with a great heart, an incredible cast, and enthusiasm on our side."
Sharing Townies with audiences will be wonderful, Trate explains. "It's a chance to have our sense of humor reach out and make other people laugh. I can't wait until Brett is able to sit in on an audience that doesn't know him and get to hear them laugh and cheer at what he has created. I think that moment will be better than any dollar amount or golden statue."
What if Townies does hit the big time—will Neo-Pangea head to the West Coast? Nah, says Bagenstose. "We plan to stay around the area and continue to use its locations and resources to our advantage. If we do get Hollywood ‘A-list' actors in our films someday, I think it would be great to take Samuel L. Jackson shopping at the farmer's market and grab a fastnacht together."
To find out more about Townies and Neo-Pangea, visit their Web site at www.neo-pangea.com.