ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt. (AP) — It was business as usual at the Union Bank branch on Railroad Street, Friday, except for the presence of a well-known actor, holding a gun, surrounded by a film crew, complete with cameras, a boom microphone and a movie clapper to strike off scene takes.
Customers with curious expressions on their faces approached tellers while a movie-making process unfolded around them. The customers came to conduct bank business while the film crew was there to shoot a bank robbery.
Union Bank became Appleseed Loan & Trust for a day. The movie makers even put framed prints advertising Appleseed Loan & Trust on the bank’s wall behind the teller stations. The name of the film is called Appleseed. It was written by actor Michael Worth, who is also directing and starring in the film. He has numerous acting and directing credits in a career that spans four decades.
Appleseed also stars Rance Howard, a long-time actor and father of actor and director Ron Howard and actor Clint Howard. The elder Howard has 279 acting credits, appearing in such TV series as the X-Files, Bones and Murder She wrote. He’s appeared in many movies including Cinderella Man, The Alamo, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Splash and Chinatown.
Wearing a burgundy jacket and a fedora, Howard waited in the bank lobby for the filming of his scene rehearsing his lines. Tucked into his belt beneath his jacket was a black Airsoft pistol he would later reveal to an actor serving as a bank teller.
The real look of a toy gun pulled out in the middle of a bank open for business was a minor concern that was resolved with a call to the police department. Officer George Johnson and Sgt. Lester Cleary met with producer Dustin Rikert to discuss the gun. The officers checked it out and learned a little bit about the scene. Satisfied there was no danger, the officers left the bank.
“It’s not my favorite thing that they make toy guns look like real guns,” said Cleary. “Unfortunately these Airsoft pistols are made to look exactly like a real firearm.” An Airsoft gun fires plastic BBs.
The officer said it was good that the film crew alerted the police ahead of time about the scene and the use of a real-looking fake gun since people unaware of the situation would be entering the bank. “It’s good that they called us,” he said.
The film crew has been in the area for about 10 days. Other filming occurred along Route 5, south of town and on the railroad tracks behind the Pomerleau Building, but it was the interior shots in the bank that really pleased the filmmakers.
“Banks that are willing to work with film productions are hard to come by,” said Rikert.
Said Worth, “What I love about it is it’s a modern-day bank that is clearly old.” He said he especially liked the checkerboard floor pattern and the vault at the end of the lobby. “You turn the camera anywhere and you get something pretty.”
Once Rikert had a chance to explain the bank scenes to Union Bank officials, it wasn’t a hard sell to get into the space.
Jeff Coslett, Branch Administrative Officer in Morrisville, said he was apprehensive at first when he first learned that a film crew was looking to shoot in the bank.
“My first thought was ‘that’s just not going to happen,'” said Coslett.
Questions he considered: “Is this a scam? Is it real? Is it something good for the reputation of the bank?”
But then he spoke to Rikert and did some checking into the producer’s past work and determined “that guy’s legit.”
He also said he was relieved to learn that the bank robbery scene was not a bust-through-the-doors-with-guns-a-blazin’ kind of scene. For Coslett and for the benefit of Sgt. Cleary, Rikert said his movie called for a “gentleman bank robber.”
Rikert’s desire to film in St. Johnsbury comes from his connection to Vermont. He is originally from South Royalton and knows what his home state has to offer in terms of beauty and a rural atmosphere.
For co-producer Jody Marriott Bar-Lev, it was her first time in the state. “I would love to come back to Vermont because it’s just stunning.”
Howard called the area “a wonderful community.” It was his first time in St. Johnsbury. He took a moment before a scene to relax in a bank armchair to discuss his fondness with working with Rikert and Worth and his appreciation for Worth’s well-written story on which Appleseed is based.
Specifics of the film’s story are closely guarded and depictions of the scenes filmed in the bank were forbidden, but Howard shared some information about his character. “I play a man south of 80 years old (in real life he’s 89). He was just released from prison. He’s got fences to mend. He needs to get to Vermont. He needs to stop at places to make amends,” Howard said.
The shooting lasted all day, and branch supervisor Patty Hodgdon said there were no problems. She said the film crew interacted well with the customers.
Coslett said Hodgdon had told him over the phone Friday afternoon that the “customers were getting a kick out of it.”
Marriott Bar-Lev and Rikert said filming was expected to wrap up today with post production work to begin soon. The film’s release date has not been set, but sometime in spring 2018 is a possibility, said Marriott Bar-Lev.
For more information: The Caledonian Record, www.caledonianrecord.com