'A magical Christmas film': Producers choose New Milford to shoot movie

NEW MILFORD — The Harden House Museum, an old estate and a “thriving” downtown are some reasons why producers of Better Days Films decided to shoot a faith-based inspirational movie called “The Thursday Night Club” in town.

Being kind to one another is the theme of the Christmas movie that will be filmed in town in the next few months.

“The Thursday Night Club,” which takes place in a New England town, is about college students preparing to graduate. A tragic incident strikes the father of one of the students, becoming the catalyst for the rest to resolve to become service oriented, practice kindness, and look out for others, a press release about the film said. It will be about 100 minutes long.

“It’s about faith. It’s about hope,” said New Jersey resident Mitchell Maxwell, who, along with North Carolina resident Monty Hobbs, are two of the executive producers. “It’s about believing that things will get better. And with the support of your fellow man, your friend, your neighbor, a stranger, we will get out of the darkness that we’re in and see the light.”

The film will be shot in mid-January and is expected to come out next Christmas. It will be available in theaters, on streaming networks, and on faith-based channels, Maxwell said.

Maxwell has been involved with more than 65 theatrical productions and eight feature films, including the movie version of his Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Dinner with Friends.”

“The Thursday Night Club” is influenced by the current mood in the world — especially as it relates to political differences and public reaction to the pandemic. They decided to produce a faith-based movie due to the effects of COVID-19, Maxwell said

“Our country is still coming out, still involved in the divisiveness and unhappiness and the woe and the emotional and the fiscal carnage that we’ve all lived through for the last 18 months — and it’s going to continue for at least awhile. There’s just so much unhappiness that we decided to make a movie that inspires.”

Maxwell said he hopes people are inspired to better the world after watching the “The Thursday Night Club.”

The film, which will cost $1.5 to $2 million, is part of the The Screen Actors Guild — the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

Producers will be providing a $25,000 scholarship to the New Milford Film Commission upon the release of the film. The scholarship will be granted to a New Milford area filmmaker and film student. In addition, a portion of the net proceeds will be donated to the arts community in town to support various programs and events.

Better Days Films, which is a division of The Story Plant Entertainment Company, a content creation company based in New York, will also be shooting a second film in New Milford — the name of which has not yet been announced.

Choosing New Milford

When scouting locations for where to shoot “The Thursday Night Club,” Maxwell said producers initially looked at about six different towns.

They were drawn to New Milford for the lovely community, as well as “how gorgeous it is and how beautiful it looks at Christmas,” Maxwell said.

Skitch Henderson’s old estate is magnificent. You drive up to ... the town square ... it all gives off a sense of good will,” he added.

Hobbs said he was impressed with the Harden House Museum at Harrybrooke Park, complete with the backyard river and waterfall.

“It’s just breathtaking there,” Hobb said. “We will be incorporating that into a scene where a retired lady is talking to the caregiver. It’s winter. She has a blanket on her. She’s overlooking the waterfall — You couldn’t build it any better.”

Additionally, he said they fell in love with New Milford’s downtown.

“We love how the downtown is thriving,” Hobbs said.

He added one problem that often happens when producers are scouting locations for films is encountering desolate areas.

“New Milford doesn’t have that. We love the fact that they still have a movie theater and a marquee,” Hobbs said. “When you think of the holidays, you think of those small towns more than you do anything else.”

Casting

In mid-October, producers will return to town to speak with residents about movie specifics. At that time, they’ll also take the script and find additional locations for scenes in the movie.

“We will meet with the owners of the businesses or the buildings...to lock in the locations (of places to shoot),” Hobbs said.

More details will be posted on storyplantentertainment.com.

There are seven principal roles in the film and about 15 smaller roles. Producers are in the process of casting the larger roles.

In December, they’ll be returning once again to New Milford to rent office space and have an open casting call for those who want to audition for other roles in the production, such as extras and background artists.

“We will also have a crew there looking for snow around the holidays, and for Christmas celebrations around town,” Hobbs said. “We will use those scenes in the film.”

Over the coming months, “there will be a buzz in the town,” he added. “It will be very exciting. We will patronize the stores, we will rent hotel rooms and we’ll make a magical Christmas film that will be memorable and will speak to the fact that society can heal itself.”

sfox@milfordmirror.com