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Mountain movie magic: Evergreen residents line up behind local indie producer

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By Stephen Knapp

It’s a story as old as romance: Stinging from a recent breakup, an ordinarily passive woman lets a more gonzo friend drag her to a local honky-tonk for a little re-immersion therapy. The beer runs cold, emotions run hot, the band is smokin’, and when she spies her one-time lover burning it up on the dance floor with his new flame, things heat up fast.

Just another Saturday night in downtown Evergreen?

Try Sunday morning, June 21 — Day 11 of independent filmmaker Julie Gallahue’s marathon 16-day shooting spree. She had a big scene to film and, with a shoot scheduled down the street at Evergreen National Bank that very afternoon, little time to waste.

The cast and crew of Gallahue’s cinematic labor of love, “Left Unsaid,” had risen with the sun, and the small parking lot beside Cactus Jack’s Saloon was SRO by 8 a.m. Outside, it was a typically bright and balmy summer morning in Evergreen, and most of Gallahue’s 30-strong, largely volunteer brigade headed straight to the creekside patio for a cup of hot gratitude and a heaping plate of thanks.

“If you intend to have people working for free, you’d better feed them, and feed them well,” laughs Gallahue, remarkably composed in light of the million-and-one details needing her attention before the cameras roll. “I was up scrambling eggs at 5 o’clock. I’ve spent more on food than on the entire sound department.”

Inside, busy hands were swiftly restoring Cactus Jack’s familiar after-hours ambience — blacking out windows and doors, artfully arranging beer bottles, wine flutes and highball glasses on tables, and positioning broad shims in front of powerful klieg lights to simulate the bar’s intimate evening glow. The popular acoustic trio Dakota Blonde — heavily reinforced for the occasion — was setting up on stage, adding its own electric cables to the loose tangle of thick, black spaghetti already covering the saloon’s worn wooden floor. The vibe was focused but relaxed, like nickel-ante poker when you’re winning.

A 2009 Evergreen High School graduate, production assistant Jodye Whitesell was happy to take her pay in hot chow and experience.

“I set up the food, run and grab whatever they need, and I’ve helped with art direction a little bit,” explains Whitesell, who’ll study filmmaking this fall at the University of Colorado. “They’ve been really good about giving the PAs a variety of jobs — almost every day it’s something different. I’ve even done the slate thing a couple times,” she grins. “You know — the thing they clap together at the start of every scene? What’s nice is that, when I get to Boulder, I’ll know by experience the things they’re talking about by definition.”

And there’s a lot to talk about, production-wise. Just ask Shawn Janacek, the longtime Evergreen resident pressed into service as Gallahue’s location manager.

“I didn’t know anything about the movie business, and it’s been a real eye-opener to see just how complicated it is,” says Janacek, who earned her organizational credentials managing the occasional Elks Lodge Bazaar and coordinating the Evergreen Fine Arts Festival three years running. “My first job was to get contracts signed to use the buildings and schedule times when we could use them. We took detailed pictures of every location so we could put everything back exactly the way we found it. I also had to find all the large equipment we were going to need, like a tow truck.”

“One of the hardest things was making sure no trademarked names are visible. We did an office scene at H&R Block on Troutdale Scenic, and we had to cover up everything that had their name on it. And by the time we’re ready to shoot here,” Janacek adds, taking in Cactus Jack’s casually frantic activity with a nonchalant sweep of the arm,” you’ll hardly even recognize it. Even the beer bottles have handmade, fake labels.”

An impressive achievement, certainly, but a piece of cake compared to the set she helped prepare at Bergen Village.

“We turned an empty second-floor office into a jail,” Janacek smiles. “It turned out great, and by the time we left, you wouldn’t even know we were ever there.”

“But even though we put everything back to normal, this isn’t easy or convenient for the owners,” Gallahue points out. “It’s like having a herd of animals come into your business. They’re helping us out of the kindness of their hearts.”

If Janacek has conquered her share of challenging situations, imagine what those 16 days must have been like for the film’s writer/producer/director, for whom every slip, snag and snafu is a dance upon the precipice. Even before shooting started, Gallahue had to replace one of her actors and find a new film editor. Then, one of the cameras started getting temperamental in mid-production, with no understudy waiting in the wings.

“Oh, there’ve been some hiccups,” Gallahue admits, dismissively. “For one thing, we didn’t pay attention to the rodeo schedule until yesterday. There was a lot of outside noise, and it was a scramble to move all of our cars, but we worked around it. And filming at Hearthfire Books on Memorial Day was a challenge, but probably more for the owner than for us. But those kinds of problems are normal. So far, everything’s gone a lot smoother than I expected it would.”

Though Gallahue would never say so, given the hectic pace and daunting obstacles her stalwart volunteers have faced, merely getting “Left Unsaid” in the can might be the easy part of the whole enterprise.

“After all the filming’s done, we’ll download everything into a computer and start putting it together like a puzzle,” Gallahue explains. “There’s a lot of tedious logging and editing. It’s very painstaking, and it takes a long time. I’m giving myself until next summer to come up with a final cut.”

If that sounds like a very long year, rest assured that Gallahue’s looking forward to every minute of it. And if her first original movie turns out to be as polished and powerful as she has every reason to expect, she knows exactly who she’ll have to thank for it.

“This is going to be a very professional product,” Gallahue says. “Even though they’re not getting paid for it, every volunteer has brought their A-game, every single day.”