By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
It was Hollywood Beneath the Streets this week as Havre High School students blended drama with history while filming a movie about one of Havre's most popular tourist attractions.
Wearing historically accurate clothing and reading from a script they had written, students from Jay Pyette's drama class acted out scenes that could have transpired a century ago in underground Havre. Meanwhile, students from Jim Magera's advanced historical preservation class captured the action on film, using artificial lighting and digital cameras.
Shooting culminated on Thursday after weeks of planning and preparation by the two classes. The end result will be an educational film about the history of Havre Beneath the Streets to be shown to fourth- grade and high school students in Havre.
"It's a great use of technology for the students," Magera said, adding that "the goal is to produce a video that Havre Beneath the Streets can sell to help raise money."
Havre Beneath the Streets is an underground tourist attraction with 16 exhibits that depict old-time business life in Havre. According to the organizers, some of the businesses had moved their operations underground after a fire in 1904 destroyed five blocks of the city. In 1989, a volunteer-driven effort reopened some of the underground vaults beneath businesses in the block between Second and Third Avenues along First Street. The group built elaborate displays, including a Chinese laundry, a barbershop, a drug store, a tavern and a brothel.
While shooting a scene in the re-creation of the office of notorious Havre bootlegger "Shorty" Young, Pyette said his drama students have enjoyed being involved with the movie.
"We've just had a lot of fun," he said. "The kids had a great time writing the script."
"I get to shoot a guy because he accuses me of cheating at cards," said junior Bill Zuelke Jr., discussing a scene that unfolds in the tavern.
Zuelke also portrays Havre co-founder Simon Pepin in a scene that takes place in the butcher shop display.
The filming likely more closely resembled a Hollywood production than a typical high school project. Students carefully positioned lights around the scene to obtain the best lighting, filmed from different angles at the same time and shot multiple takes.
"It's neat to see the kids take charge," Magera said. "This is real education."
All of the digital film will be edited on computers, and can then be transferred to VHS tapes or DVDs, Magera said. In addition to the scenes filmed this week, the movie will also include a historical narrative delivered by HHS senior John Harrison.
"He's got a great voice," Magera said. "I know he's really excited to be a part of this."
Other features of the movie include brief interviews with local history buffs and tour guides from Havre Beneath the Streets.
"We really have two goals," Magera said. "We want something that people will enjoy, but also draw them to the tour."
This is the first year that Havre High has offered the advanced historical preservation class. Future projects may include educational movies about the city of Havre, Wahkpa Chu'gn Bison Kill Site and Bear Paw Battlefield, Magera said.
Filming on Thursday coincided with tours of Havre Beneath the Streets by a number of classes from Rocky Boy and Nashua schools.
Filming on Thursday coincided with a major fund-raiser for Havre Beneath the Streets. Money from tours given throughout the day - including visits by several area schools - will be used for new exhibits and renovations planned for the tourist attraction.
"We had close to 100 people, so it went pretty well," said Frank DeRosa, chairman of the Havre Beneath the Streets board of directors. Students from Twin Bridges School were planning to visit the tour today, he added.
"We've had 688 people this year so far. That's pretty good for the winter we got this year. The kids enjoy it, that's the best part."