Hollywood came calling in Ridgewood recently, signaling out The Ridgewood Art Institute (RAI) for a stellar supporting role in a soon to be released feature film entitled “A Case of Blue.”
The revered institute, whose rich heritage of keeping alive traditional realism in painting, drawing and the poetic effects of north light on landscape and interior subjects, so inspired award-winning filmmaker and hometown resident Dana H. Glazer that he chose it as the backdrop for pivotal scenes in his movie.
As Glazer puts it, “It’s a miracle, really. There is no studio anywhere in this area quite like it with the northern light, and what an incredible bit of serendipity that it is located 5 minutes from my house.”
The barn, as RAI is affectionately known, has an artistic lineage harking back to the revered American impressionist artist/educator Frank Vincent Dumond, whose students at the Art Students League (ASL) in New York included Georgia O’Keefe, Norman Rockwell and RAI’s patriarch and founding father Arthur Maynard. It would be Maynard, also a gifted artist and teacher who advanced RAI as an offshoot of his mentor’s legacy and oversaw construction of a studio, that meticulously duplicated ASL’s Studio #7 ambiance down to even the pitch of its skylights and wall color. Both settings would prove to be key components in Glazer’s narrative and shoot.
A Story Is Born
As backstory goes, about 15 years ago while taking a drawing class at the League, inspired, no doubt, by the visual tone-poem quality of that setting, Glazer had the idea for a screenplay about a retiree who joins a drawing class, encounters a model who is the spitting image of a romantic partner from decades before and tries to escape into his past with her. In the interim, ASL would go on to sell air rights to its landmark headquarters, and subsequently, construction of a tall, residential tower next door sadly jeopardized the magical north lit atmosphere of Glazer’s memory, necessitating another venue to bring his storyline to fruition from page to screen.
“In ‘A Case of Blue,’ the studio scenes needed to be cinematic,” explains the writer/director.
A tall order by any stretch; however, upon walking into Ridgewood’s West studio for the first time, Glazer was stunned to find exactly that.
“Shooting this movie at the Institute is like being 10 years old at Toys ‘R Us, having won a shopping spree for a few minutes and being able to grab everything I can in the store,” he joyously exclaimed once on set.
Aesthetics and right place and time aside, in a nod toward authenticity, for the barn scenes, RAI students and teachers were included as extras, and working alongside veteran performers were instructed to carry on as if in a typical art class. During the shoot, West studio’s intrinsically nostalgic, yet gritty setting was visually gripping, as those of us watching actors, artists and action from a kitchen antechamber monitor were mesmerized by the misty-eyed mood emerging through the director’s lens.
Who’s Who – In, Around and Behind The Scene
Glazer, who received his MFA in film from NYU in 1998, contends he is drawn to writing stories about people who are overlooked and ignored.
“When you watch a film I make you are going to have an emotional experience in some way or another,” he affirms.
True to form, in “A Case of Blue,” his main character embarks on a journey of the soul only to discover that escaping one’s reality has unexpected costs. In addition to this first feature dramatic film, other credits include screenplays for Warner Brothers and Syfy Channel documentaries, such as “The Evolution of Dad” (2010) “Parents of the Revolution” (2014) and the short “Jim and Sarah Brady: A Tribute” (2015). As for “A Case of Blue’s” cast, television and film actor Stephen Schetzer (“Homeland,” “As the World Turns” and “The Wire”) plays lead, with Broadway actress Tracy Shayne (“Les Miz,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “Chicago” and “A Chorus Line”) as his wife and Annapurna Sriram in the pivotal role of artist’s model.
Reflecting on his plans once RAI’s scenes are in the can, the Ridgewood resident divulges, “For the next year, I will be a dad, teaching film at Fairleigh Dickinson University and editing ‘A Case of Blue’ like crazy.”
And then, turning introspective, he adds, “I love it all! Every day is well spent if I make something. It doesn’t have to be a film. It could be a poem. A song. A photograph. A day without that in my life is a day that something went missing.”
A bastion for traditional art, the Ridgewood Art Institute offers drawing, oil, watercolor, pastel and acrylic mediums for both adults and young people. A full list of courses can be accessed via www.ridgewoodartinstitute.org. Look for “A Case of Blue” to hit theatres in the near future.
Louise B. Hafesh is an award-winning artist and journalist and president of AdVantage Publications, Inc., an international editorial syndicate. A former student at The Ridgewood Art Institute, she lives in Bergen County with her husband, and can be reached at www.louisebhafesh.com.
By Louise B. Hafesh
Photos courtesy Murray Smith