Thursday, June 07, 2007

More on the "Losing Jerry" movie:

In Hampton Beach, Deadheads never die
Filmmakers shoot crowds at concert
Py Victoria Shouldis
For the Monitor
June 07. 2007 1:41PM

As the small camera crew filmed the tie-dyed, pony-tailed Grateful Dead loving-crowd at Hampton Beach's Casino Ballroom last Friday night, it was easy to forget that Jerry Garcia had been dead for more than 11 years.

But while Jerry is gone, Deadhead culture lives on. And that's why writer and director Mitch Gamen spent last Friday shooting the crowd at a performance by the Dark Star Orchestra, perhaps the premier Dead-tribute band. It's also why Ganem will spend a good part of his fall in New Hampshire, doing the principal shooting on his film, Losing Jerry.

The film tells the story of a group of friends whose lives intertwine while going on the road to follow Jerry. Ganem, a screenwriter who has worked as a location scout for commercials and movies (including Spider-Man), is a New Hampshire native.

On the day Garcia died - August 9, 1995 - his bandmate

Bob Weir was scheduled to perform solo at the Casino in Hampton Beach. Weir's show went on, and that night, grief-stricken Dead fans from throughout the eastern seaboard made their way to Hampton Beach. Those who couldn't get in to see the sold-out-show gathered along the boardwalks, on the beach and on the streets

Ganem's Losing Jerry ends with that gathering of Deadheads, but as he tells it, the denouement is about much more than grief.
"The Grateful Dead were a band that brought people together, and that's the story to tell. It's about the spiritual connection, about the bonds you make in your life," said Ganem. "These are people who are friends and more than friends - they are family. It's that second family we all form in life. Not the family we come from - we don't really have a lot of choice there, do we? - but the families we make."

Ganem and his crew are working with the state's N.H. Film and Television office, and this fall, they will shoot the bulk of the movie in Hampton Beach, Manchester and other spots throughout the state.

Ganem is openly and firmly a Deadhead, and has been since 1981, when he and four friends piled into a pickup and headed to a Dead show. If you look closely, you can find Ganem in the crowd picture on the inner sleeve of the 1990 live album Dylan and the Dead.

Producer Mark Constance is working to make Losing Jerry a film both meaningful and authentic, which is why the filmmakers found themselves at the Casino Ballroom last week.

"There are two pivotal concert scenes in the movie. We could have hired like 2,000 extras and gathered them in a room and asked them to pretend they were enjoying a Dead show, or we could film at a show with the Dark Star Orchestra and get real people really enjoying the music," said Constance. "The Casino Ballroom and the band allowed us to do this - and it's exactly what we want."

Skip French, 51, of Hopkinton, says he saw the Dead "six or seven dozen times," and last week was his third time seeing the Dark Star Orchestra. He was more than happy to find himself a potential movie star.

"Honestly, there's very little difference in the way Dark Star plays and the way the Dead did," said French. "They get the music right, they get the atmosphere right."

Indeed, the folks in attendance were clearly old-school Deadheads. The once-new T-shirts are now vintage, and the hair has a touch of gray.

But old friends were happy to reunite, and there was a certain communal sense of culture - as well as a scent of patchouli oil - in the air.

The blurring of lines - is it a Dead show or a facsimile? - is just fine with writer Gamen.

"There is something that people who followed the Dead tend to teach - that sense of being in the moment," said Gamen. "We're here in this moment. And this moment? It's perfect."

------ End of article


For the Monitor