News Column

'A great place to make a movie'

July 29, 2013


July 29--SOUTH BEND -- Filmmaker and LaPorte resident John Hancock had never shot a movie in South Bend until his latest effort, "Swan Song," but the 73-year-old director said the experience couldn't have been better.

Hancock, known for the movies "Bang the Drum Slowly" and "Prancer," along with the Oscar-nominated short film "Sticky my Fingers Fleet my Feet," thanked the city for its hospitality Sunday during a shoot at IUSB's Northside Hall.

And he expressed his gratitude by presenting Mayor Pete Buttigieg with an unique token of appreciation -- two copies of the "Swan Song" screenplay. Hancock said many of South Bend's qualities made it a perfect place to film.

"We had such a good time filming in the area, and especially South Bend," Hancock said as he presented the mayor with the copies of the screenplay. "You've got a downtown, you've got a river, you've got suburbs. Rolling, flat -- it's really a great place to make a movie."

Hancock's comments drew cheers from a couple hundred local extras gathered in the Northside Hall auditorium, where the director and his crew spent Sunday filming a scene that involves a stage production of "Alice in Wonderland."

The film stars Hancock's wife, Dorothy Tristan, in the role of Karen, a former film and stage star dealing with possible symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. When Karen's 13-year-old granddaughter, Julie, played by LaPorte native Grace Tarnow, comes to live with her, they initially butt heads, until Julie's beautiful singing voice brings them together.

Buttigieg thanked Hancock for casting Tarnow and other local actors in the film.

"We're just really honored that you chose South Bend as not only a location, but also as a source of talent," Buttigieg said.

The mayor then joked that he would try to avoid giving away plot points from the screenplay before the film's release.

"I don't want to spoil it, so it'll have a place in my office until I see the movie," he said.

Andrew Tallackson, a co-producer and publicist for "Swan Song," said it's rare for a filmmaker to give away screenplays or allow behind-the-scenes access that could reveal plot points. But Hancock wanted to make the community feel involved in the film -- a key for a successful low-budget movie, Tallackson said.

"Our whole theme has been the 'town that made a movie,'" Tallackson said. "This film has the look and feel of a studio-quality film, and you don't get that without cooperation."

Hancock's LaPorte County-based production company, FilmAcres, is producing the film for about $300,000, Tallackson has said.

Hancock, who has now filmed parts of four movies in Michiana, said he has recommended South Bend to Hollywood producers such as Bill Badalato, whose resume includes "Top Gun" and "About Schmidt."

"It's an ideal town where you can get the cooperation you need easily," he said.


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