An independent filmmaker and composer with local roots, Scott Nelson, hopes to bring northwest Pennsylvania’s historic beauty and rich heritage to the silver screen with his latest work in progress, “A Simple Life,” a locally inspired post-Victorian drama he believes will touch the hearts of many.
The cast and crew, comprised mostly if not completely of talent from around the state, shot on location Monday morning and afternoon at the Gibson House, also known as Mark Twain Manor, in Jamestown to capture the essence of the early 1900s.
“This film is important to the area because of its history,” Nelson said. “The other reason for this film is that the area is beautiful.”
The Jamestown Future Foundation, which restores and maintains the Gibson House, expressed its collective excitement to have the local venue highlighted.
“It’s the centerpiece of Jamestown; it’s nice to see it highlighted,” said Marcia de Kramer, a member of the foundation’s board of directors. “(The cast and crew) were very easy and delightful to work with.”
Originally from Oil City, Nelson has based the last few years of his filmmaking in Los Angeles. His family’s life, especially his mother’s, inspired him to depart from the land of special effects and return to his roots.
“Modern movies are important,” he said, “but I feel we sometimes miss the human elements; the relationships that make a difference in everybody’s lives.”
The story focuses mainly on the memories of an elderly woman in her last days as she recollects on the influential moments that altered her life.
“This movie features extremely talented local folks and is about a life that took place here,” Nelson said. “It’s about things that happen to everyone. Anyone can relate to it.”
Nelson also believes fellow producers and directors would do well to seek out historic rural areas.
“It’s important for people to look at these locations, tucked away in different parts of the country,” Nelson said. “The jewels you find here are unreal.”
The feeling was mutual for several cast members as they donned early 20th century garb to complete their cinematic trip to the past.
“One of the nice things is that communities like this are so welcoming,” said actor F. Robert McMurray, formerly of Sandy Lake. “People will be excited for this.”
McMurray, no stranger to movie magic given his roles in other independent films, praised the historic accuracy of “A Simple Life” in terms of venues as well as costume design.
“I’ve been impressed at how meticulous the film has been to give it that early 1900s flavor,” he said. “It’s a really wholesome film. I think it’s going to be appreciated by local families.”
Nelson credited the help of makeup artist and actress Royanna Snow of Oil City, who says she’s transformed 70-year-olds into 33-year-olds and vice versa.
“It’s been quite an experience to see what goes on behind the scenes to make a movie,” Snow said. “It’s spectacular to see everyone in traditional costumes and makeup in a house built in the 1800s.”
Daniel Duda, costume designer, says the approximate year-long final product didn’t come easy, having begun research as early as last summer to perfect the details of a bygone era.
The sentiment was shared by camera operator John Beyerl, who had to watch for motorcycles, cars, utility poles and other modern amenities.
Nelson hopes to premiere the film in mid-August, but he is still working on a location for the event. He has already composed most of the original score for “A Simple Life,” which he made available on iTunes and Amazon.com
“There is not one person this film will not affect,” Nelson said. “It’s about trusting in God and trusting what we’re doing. Although we suffer and experience loss, the outcome can still be good.”