In light of the nationwide release of the film, “The Place Beyond the Pines,” Stephen Gemmiti ’14 is happily reminded this month of his “behind the scenes” work as one of the production’s interns.
Gemmiti, a movie enthusiast with a passion for filmmaking, says his time working on the set of “The Place Beyond the Pines” was a phenomenal-even surreal-experience that allowed him to participate in the various stages of the production. Directed by Derek Cianfrance and starring Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper, the crime-drama film tells the story of a former motorcycle stuntman at conflict with an up-and-coming police officer, as they both face personal and external battles.
The film, which saw its initial limited release in late March, is gearing up for a nationwide theatrical run beginning Friday, April 12.
“Having the opportunity to work on the film during both pre-production and production was invaluable,” says Gemmiti, a media and society major. “Additionally, it was exhilarating getting to see the script transform over several drafts while having the chance to pick-out and buy the props and set dec that later would populate the film.”
Gemmiti says production for “The Place Beyond the Pines” began during July 2011 in the Capital Region of New York, with production continuing throughout that summer. The storyline of the film is based in Schenectady, N.Y., a community not far from where Gemmiti resides and first learned of the internship.
“I recall my first day fondly, primarily because the production was still in a state of relative infancy,” he says. “The production team had just arrived in the Capital Region on the week that I was hired, which meant that locations were still being scouted, roles were still being cast and the props virtually nonexistent.”
During his time on the set, Gemmiti says he spent a considerable amount of time dressing sets in preparation for filming. He says he also had the opportunity to spend time on active sets, while shooting of the film was taking place. The time and effort that go into making a feature film is amazing, and it’s a privilege to contribute to the process, he says.
“Gaining this higher appreciation for the ‘behind the scenes’ work of a film is something that deeply moved me during my time with ‘The Place Beyond the Pines,'” Gemmiti says. “Seeing so many people pour all of their creative selves into a single vision is truly remarkable.”
During his experience, Gemmiti says the action sequences and the night shoots were the most exhilarating aspects of the production.
A perk of interning, Gemmiti says having the opportunity to interact at times with various cast members of “The Place Beyond the Pines.” Aside from Gosling, other major roles were played by Bradley Cooper and Eva Mendes.
“I would frequently cross paths with all members of the cast and each time, I would reflect on the impression I would like to leave with these people,” Gemmiti says. “There are millions of star struck fans, but being remembered as a professional and courteous crew member was far more impactful. This was an important lesson to learn, especially considering I aspire to be an agent, which means continuing to work with talent in a professional setting.”
In addition to meeting some of today’s leading actors, Gemmiti says the production itself, of course, also had its highlights.
“I remember huddling around video village with the rest of the crew in the dead of night watching a particularly intense scene unfold exactly how it will look on the big screen despite it being shot only 30-feet away,” Gemmiti recalls. “There was even a sequence being filmed that night where I had to stand behind a wall to ensure one of the dogs being filmed didn’t escape from the set. I was so close that if I leaned forward too much, my shirt would be picked up on screen which was nerve-wracking, but a thrilling odd job nonetheless.”
In reflecting on the overall experience, Gemmiti also credits his time at HWS for helping to prepare him for a rigorous and professional internship. Gemmiti says after completing his work with the production team of “The Place Beyond the Pines,” he knew that even though he hadn’t yet begun his sophomore year at HWS that he was heading in the right direction. In addition, he says that Professor of Media and Society Les Friedman gave encouraging advice to continue on and keep an eye on the future.
“When I saw ‘The Place Beyond the Pines’ for the first time at its world premier at the Toronto International Film Festival, I knew that I would never be the same person I was before the internship, but more importantly, I knew that the internship wouldn’t be what defined me as I looked ahead,” Gemmiti says. “I entered the Colleges as an overeager kid who loved movies, but with the guidance of Professor Friedman, the Media and Society Department, as well as a few big experiences like ‘Pines,’ I began to see a future for myself doing what I love.”
In the photo above, Stephen Gemmiti ’14 poses with actor Ryan Gosling during a night shoot for the film “The Place Beyond the Pines.”