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DREAM HOUSE 20TH ANNIVERSARY #1
In 2002, I made a portfolio of 12 images called Dream House. It was originally printed in the New York Times Magazine, conceived and published in collaboration with the Magazine’s esteemed Director of Photography Kathy Ryan. Dream House was a unique project, in that it was and still is the only editorial commission I’ve done, and the only time I’ve featured well-known and recognizable actors in pictures in an overt and conscious way. The making of these pictures was a labor of love, and is a fond memory.
This is the first in a series of posts dedicated to the 20th Anniversary of this body of work.
THE HOUSE was located in Rutland, VT, and was ordinary, nondescript, one story, and elegant in its simplicity. As soon as I stepped inside, I knew I wanted to make pictures there. It had been lived in for many decades by one family, but since the passing of its last remaining elderly inhabitant, it had been closed up and left untouched, like a time capsule.
How I happened to find the house requires a little back story…
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I had been shooting my Twilight (1998-2002) series, on various locations in Lee, MA, and in the surrounding towns, as well as on sound stages at the then-just-recently-opened MASS MoCA in North Adams. At that time, we were renting our lights and gear from a place called Edgewood Studios in Rutland, VT, which I only knew in the abstract, since I’d never actually been there. A guy named Todd Wheel would drive the equipment to set, wherever that happened to be, and then would often stay and work on the pictures as part of the crew. Todd was usually a man of few words, but one day, on the set of the below picture in 2001, in Housatonic, MA, we had our first real conversation. He mentioned that Edgewood had their own fully-equipped sound stage on their campus. He invited me to visit and see for myself.
At some point I took him up on it and made the drive up to Rutland, which is around 90 minutes north of the Berkshires.
Edgewood Studios was founded by David Giancola, whom I met that day. David founded the studio and started directing low budget feature films with no formal training at age 19. When I met him, he was in his 20s and had already directed 6 or 7 films, but David has, to date, directed, produced, or been DP on over 35 features. His films usually revolve around major natural disasters and high stakes of one sort or another and are chock full of crazy special effects: Icebreaker, Lightning: Fire From the Sky, Trapped: Buried Alive, Frozen Impact, and Zombie Town are some of his titles. His film Time Chasers has become a B-Movie cult classic. Many stars including Jesse Eisenberg, Chris Evans, Paul Dano, and Kate Bosworth were discovered and given their first starring roles by David Giancola.
I was immediately intrigued by Edgewood Studios and David, and the B-movie empire he had created in such an out-of-the-way town. David was very supportive of me using his sound stage for my pictures, and I wound up shooting the last few in Twilight there, including the one below, which features Dylan Baker.
Among many helpful people on the Edgewood Studios team, there was a woman named Sandy Gartner. She became integral behind the scenes with administrative and logistical help, and made many introductions and connections for us in the town. Then she mentioned one day, almost in passing, that there was a family house she could show me. An elderly family member had passed away, and for reasons I don’t remember, the house had been left untouched with all the furnishings still inside, for quite some time. Of course I wanted to see it.
Right away, it felt like walking onto a set. The house had these great floor to ceiling windows, where you could see out to the dramatic mountains on the horizon, and were adorned with window dressings from some previous time period. The furniture was all perfectly preserved, outside of time, and had been well lived in; but it was also all very orderly, and considered: shag carpeting, little vases with fake flower arrangements, lace doilies, side tables, and heavy wooden bedroom sets.
The house was amazing. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to use it for yet. But at a fateful lunch and conversation with Kathy Ryan not long after in New York, an idea would start to come together.