Winterset—It’s a Small Town

Independent filmmaker Jack C. Newell* (who happens to be my son-in-law) rolled into town late Monday night, en route Chicago from Boulder, CO, where he recently wrapped filming on his latest project, a dark romantic comedy titled “Monuments.” The story involves a road trip-heist-chase, so he and two crew members were capturing scenes along the way, getting “journey footage” on their way home. They were driving two vehicles—a car, and the beat up old pickup featured in the movie.

Earlier on Monday, a text from Jack asked if I might be able to organize some cows in a field along a highway close to town. They wanted a shot of the pickup truck barreling down the road . . . from the point-of-view of the cows. I called Peggy Casper.

Jack and crew also requested a marquee-change at the Iowa Theater, so Monday afternoon manager Scott Smith got on a ladder in a frigid, cutting wind, removed the current letters, and put up the movie titles Jack asked for (“The Searchers” and “The General”). Around midnight, the “Monuments” team arrived on the square, turned on the marquee, and got their night shots, one of which involved temporarily replacing the pickup’s legal Illinois license plates with fake Colorado ones.

Mark and I were fast asleep by the time Writer/Director Jack, Director of Photography Stephanie, and Production Designer Matt let themselves in the back door to occupy our guest bedrooms for one night.

The next morning, north of town on Hwy. 92, Peggy’s grandson Zach Bruett helped Stephanie and Matt hoist their large, bulky, and incredibly expensive (rented) movie camera and tripod over the fence and onto his truck bed, and then coordinated the movement of the cows (coaxing them with tasty corn) between camera and fence, while on the highway Jack drove the movie truck through the shot for two or three takes.

Later in the day, after lunch at Montross Pharmacy (involving Stephanie’s introduction to the Iowa Pork Tenderloin), as the crew headed out of town, Jack sent a text saying they had forgotten the fake license plates and Matt’s drill near the theater late Monday night. Would someone maybe have turned them in to City Hall or perhaps the police? Shortly, I made two of the weirdest phone calls of my life, with no results.

The next day, Winterset Utilities employee Jay Gibson delivered the lost items to my back door. He’d been installing Christmas lights on the square at 5 a.m. Tuesday morning and noticed the drill and plates on the sidewalk under The Iowa’s marquee. Later in the day, he showed them to the facade crew working on Jim Smith’s building next door. “Not ours,” they said. Jay next contacted the police department about running the plates. That’s how he found me. “It looked like a pretty good drill,” he said. “I knew someone would be wanting it back.”

That’s Winterset, Iowa, my home town.

*Check out Jack’s fantastic documentary, “42 Grams,” about a Chicago restaurant that goes from a popup to the talk of the town, available on Netflix and ITunes.




10 Responses

  1. Nancy Trask
    | Reply

    Great story, Marianne, and all the better because it’s so characteristic of Winterset.

  2. valerie
    | Reply

    This is fantastic — day in the life — and wonderful truth about community and the strength of living in a small town where we know one another and care — Thanks for sharing.

  3. Anne Hollenbach
    | Reply

    Whoever said retirement was boring has not been to Winterset. Great story!

  4. Brian Downes
    | Reply

    The Iowa Theater should not tease me like that. I was very excited to see there’d be unannounced screenings of “The Searchers” and “The General” in our hometown movie house. I never miss an opportunity to watch the John Wayne classic on the big screen because, even without sound, it’s like experiencing a series of gorgeous western paintings. While seldom–if ever–are they screened together, I’ve never seen the equally classic Civil War epic “The General” in a theater. The film assured Buster Keaton’s place as one of the greatest screen stars of all time and is a delight from start to finish. I’ve been tricked but good and can’t wait for April Fools Day to return the favor. (I’m smiling, of course.)

    • Marianne Fons
      | Reply

      Brian, thank you! I know Jack chose those two particular titles for specific reasons. He told me but now I’ve forgotten. The Searchers probably because we are John Wayne’s birthplace. The Buster Keaton film may simply be a favorite of Jack’s.

  5. Sally Wilke
    | Reply

    Delightful story. Thanks. What sweet community we live in.

  6. Carole
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    Winterset is on my “bucket list”!

  7. Jean Walker
    | Reply

    What a great story, Marianne!
    I’m not one bit surprised that what was left on the square was soon returned. (Just one of several reasons I decided to live out my life in this town.)
    And I, too, was “fooled” by your lit up marquee and those movie titles!

  8. Deb Gore Ohrn
    | Reply

    Great blog! My nephews are in the film business as well in California. I forwarded this to them!

  9. Mari Anderson
    | Reply

    Another wonderful story from the mind and heart of Marianne Fons! Thanks for sharing it – it’ll be so much fun to spot the scenes you wrote about when Jack’s film is ready for viewing.

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