Around 11 p.m. on a cold night in mid-October in Strasbourg, actor Nicholas Hamilton, dressed in 80s clothes, smashed the glass of a window.
No, the actor who starred in “It” and “Captain Fantastic” was not involved in vandalism at the start of Halloween; he was on the set of the next feature film “Brave the Dark”.
âBrave the Darkâ is based on the true story of the relationship between a popular Garden Spot High School drama teacher – the late Stan Deen (deceased 2016) – and troubled teenager Nate Deen (then Busko).
Filming for the film ended on October 20 after 26 days of filming. The production team was dedicated to filming the film in and around Lancaster County. Locations ranged from the Stan Deen Auditorium at Garden Spot High School (named in honor of the former drama teacher) and the McCaskey High School track, to private residences in other parts of the county, in solicitation. via an open call to the production team. There was also a casting for the extras, and local businesses participated, from serving food to the cast and crew to providing costumes.
For now, those involved in the film are hoping for a fall or winter 2022 release, but the release date has yet to be confirmed.
Nate Deen, 53, was there for every day of filming. He says it was surreal, exciting and scary to stand right past the lights, cameras and action, to watch Hamilton play a teenage version of himself.
âTo see Nicholas represent me through all of these scenes was amazing,â says Deen, a producer in the film department of Sight & Sound Theaters. âBut it was also hard watching someone represent you and seeing them do things that you did in real life. I’m literally letting the world know all the bad things I’ve done in my life, but I think it’s important to share what I grew up on.
Deen, who changed his last name from Busko to Deen to honor his mentor and father figure, thanks Stan for helping him change his life.
âThat’s why I can tell the story today,â says Deen, who is credited as the film’s executive producer. “Because I am no longer that person. I wanted to make a change, and I made a change, and I’m better at it today. It was Stan’s influence on my life.
Deen, who was on set for each of the 26 days of filming, says each day was exciting, but moving. He wasn’t just watching Hamilton’s version of himself, but also Jared Harris (âMad Men,â âChernobylâ) playing Stan Deen, who collaborated on an early draft of the script before his death.
âI wish Stan was here. He would have been delighted to know that Jared Harris had played him in a movie. It would have been a dream come true for him, âsays Deen.
Deen was impressed with Harris’ dedication to the role, how much he cared about the character and Stan’s success.
âJared (Harris) is a real class actor. We would start conversations about Stan and different things and he would say, âHey, I have to go back to my dressing room because I have to spend time with Stan. “Which means he had to get into character,” Deen says. âHe looked at all the videos I could find of Stan. He listened to all the audio cassettes I had from Stan. He found gestures and how Stan stood in the classroom, how Stan taught, but yet there was also a sense of Jared Harris in the role.
Deen says that in some ways, even when Harris was not in his character, he reminded her of Stan.
âHe encouraged me like Stan in a lot of ways, which was really cool. He’s an amazing person, not just an amazing actor. His heart is in the right place. It was just an honor to work with him. Deen says. “He’s said a few times,” Dude, Stan was so upbeat. It’s hard to play that all the time. Stan has always been so positive.
Deen says he realized that everyone from the cast and crew to community members seemed to really care about the story.
âI knew I had an amazing story to tell and I thought it would one day be told. I just never realized it would be so big and that so many people would come on board and support me and the story, âDeen said. “People love this story and they love Stan.”
One of the first people to support Deen’s story was Derek Dienner, founder of MAKE / Films, a Lancaster-based film and video production company that co-produces the film with Inspiring Films, an independent film company based in London and England. New Zealand.
âThis is definitely the greatest thing I have ever done and that MAKE has ever done,â says Dienner. âAnd this is the biggest shoot in Lancaster since ‘Witness’. It’s pretty crazy everything in there. It was really cool to see it all come together.
According to Dienner, the film crew of more than 60 people shot a total of 220 scenes with 550 different setups and angles in almost 20 different locations.
âIt was a lot of great creative people who came together and worked really hard to make a movie,â said Dienner, who will have producer credit on the film. “Everyone was really connected to the story and to this idea that one person can make a difference, like how Stan Deen made a difference at Nate.”
Dienner says he was impressed with the passion that director Damian Harris (“Gardens of the Night”) and actors like Nicholas Hamilton and Jared Harris brought to the set. And like Deen, Dienner says he also noticed parallels between Harris and the drama teacher character he was playing.
âYou could tell he really cared to connect with the young actors who played the students in the movie and to connect with Nick as well. They had a great relationship – (Harris) and Nicholas Hamilton. He just had great energy on set. He was really fun.
Dienner says that maintaining a positive energy, whether with the cast or the crew, is a big part of independent filmmaking.
âThere’s a lot of energy in the team when you’re in the middle of production and when you’re shooting everyday,â Dienner says. âI think that by rubbing shoulders with these great filmmakers, I realized that the speed of independent cinema is 1,000 miles an hour. You need to be able to think things through and make creative decisions quickly.
And, Dienner notes, the movie came with its own set of challenges.
âIt was a really tough movie,â Dienner says. âIt’s a period film in Lancaster. We had a whole art department and their job was to create this legitimate 80s aesthetic. And you’re in these rural houses that have lanes and you’re trying to load stuff in and out of the trucks and it’s a lot of logistics and lots of creative problem solving. Plus, you deal with COVID protocols and COVID restrictions. “
Now that filming is complete, Dienner and the MAKE Films crew will be involved in part of the promotional and editing process.
âItâs the hardest thing Iâve ever done, but it all started with a belief and a desire to accomplish something,â Dienner says. âWe have climbed Mount Everest. We have yet another Mount Everest to climb in post-production and sell, distribute at movie festivals, and launch by next year.
Nate Deen says he’s still feeling the excitement of the shoot and what’s to come.
âIt was literally the best experience of my life so far. This is something I have dreamed of for a long time. I couldn’t have asked for a better 26 days, âsays Deen. “It was an amazing trip, and it’s not over yet.”