By Krystal Spring
Four young men stand around a foosball table at the old IOOF building in downtown Havre. their shirts are untucked, their ties hang loose and each man has a beer in hand.
Behind this seemingly ordinary scene, large light sets illuminate the room and the men's faces, a boom mike hangs in the air, and a camera is rolling - catching every moment of the scene on film. It's day one of an extensive film shoot for "Rosaries," a new feature-length film written by Havre's veteran playwright, actor and director, Jay Pyette.
"It took two years to get to a final script," Pyette said about "Rosaries," his first screenplay. "So much planning and hard work have gone into this film over the past several months to finally get it to this stage, where we can actually begin shooting."
Pyette describes "Rosaries" as a dark comedy, written for a mature audience. "In a nutshell, it's a story of four guys who have a great desire for success, but they take that desire too far and lose sense of all boundaries along the way," Pyette said. "There's a lot of truths in the film that will appeal to anyone."
Pyette initially wrote "Rosaries" for stage but said the script didn't work as a play.
"When I finally made the switch from a stage play to a screenplay, everything clicked and it really came together," he said. "It's a lot bigger production than I thought. It's a whole different game than play production."
The film will feature several local actors from the Montana Actors' Theatre, as well as two actors from New York and several extras.
"It's been a great experience so far," said Shalini Singh, a New Yorker who flew to Montana to play the part of Robin, the girlfriend of one of the main characters in the film. "So far, everything's going great. I really like Montana. It's so different from New York and the people are so nice."
Singh arrived in Montana last week with Amit Patel. Patel is not only acting in "Rosaries," he's also the first assistant director.
"We're so early in the filming and I'm excited to see where it goes," Patel said. "My character in the film is an acting agent we don't even have a name for him yet. It's still kind of up in the air, so who knows where the role will take me."
"Rosaries" is the work of film dionysia, a new production company formed by Pyette, Grant Olson and Sean Williams. The company was named after City Dionysia, an ancient Greek religious festival where dramatists presented their plays on the slopes of the Acropolis. Since the three producers got their acting start on stage, Olson said the "film dionysia" name seemed fitting for their production company.
Film dionysia is working in cooperation with MAT in its first film endeavor. "The Complete Works of Shakespeare," a recent play by MAT, helped raise money for the movie production. Olson says the film is operating within a $70,000 budget.
"Transferring the movie to film is about a $40,000 operation," Olson said.
The rest of the money will pay for Patel and Singh, a new camera, and various film and editing equipment. But Olson said getting the necessary equipment together was the easy part.
"Lining up actors and locations has taken a lot more time than I thought," the 24-year-old Havre resident said. "I thought this was going to be a cakewalk, but it's really a lot more complicated than I ever imagined."
The film will be shot in more than 40 locations in the Havre area, including Olson's apartment, which serves as his home, a film set and an editing studio.
"It's so much fun," Olson said. "It's exciting to think that this could be my future."
Pyette, who is president of MAT, and Olson, vice president of the theater group, said community support has been vital to the production of their film. Because of this, the production company has no interest in moving out of Havre.
"We want to stay here and work here," said Pyette. "The more support we get here in our hometown, the easier that will be."
Film dionysia plans to wrap up shooting in July. The goal of the production company is to edit the complete movie by the end of August, so the film can debut at film festivals in the fall.
"You hope a big name producer or production house sees it and wants to pick it up," Olson said.
And if everything works as planned, "Rosaries" will not be the last you see of this production company. Olson is working on a screenplay for a film based on the life of Chief Joseph. "It'll be my first attempt at big writing," he said.