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Harbour Grace serves as opening location for new short film set in 1800s

Rhiannon Morgan (left) and Stephen Oates (right) take on the lead roles in Benjamin Noah’s (centre) film “New Woman.”
Rhiannon Morgan (left) and Stephen Oates (right) take on the lead roles in Benjamin Noah’s (centre) film “New Woman.” - Chris Lewis

HARBOUR GRACE, NL — Certain parts of Harbour Grace will make it to the big screen in the coming months.

“New Woman” is a new short film from Newfoundland director and producer Benjamin Noah, and anyone familiar with Harbour Grace will recognize some of the community’s sights in the first few minutes of the movie.

The film is, as described by Noah, a gothic-romance set in the 1800s. As a result, he has had to rely on Newfoundland’s historic locations as backdrops for his scenes – specifically, old churches and buildings that can be found across the province. Harbour Grace was an ideal location for filming, as certain parts of Water Street, as well as St. Paul’s Anglican Church, served Noah and his film crew quite nicely.

“I mean, anyone who knows Harbour Grace, knows it’s an old, beautiful spot,” the director said of the decision to shoot in the Conception Bay North community. “When you’re shooting any sort of project set in an older time period, it can be kind of difficult when it comes to finding places to film, but Newfoundland has a lot of these really nice looking buildings and areas that, when shot the right way, can really look the part, like the church we filmed at today.”

Some period-appropriate architecture along Water Street served as perfect locations for filming.
Some period-appropriate architecture along Water Street served as perfect locations for filming.

The filming process in Harbour Grace took only a few hours on Saturday, Dec. 30, but Noah and his team had been traveling to several different locations in the province throughout the weeks, with Harbour Grace serving as the location for the opening scenes of the film.

“(The movie) follows two immigrants – one from Ireland, and one from Eastern Europe,” Noah explained. “Without getting into too much detail, the Irish immigrant has come upon some hard times, and attempts to pickpocket this woman’s purse, and she ends up seducing him into coming back to her castle. One of the reasons I wanted to make this was because of that – it has a strong female role.”

Noah explained that the film, which features Rhiannon Morgan and Carbonear native Stephen Oates as the lead characters, had been in the works for a number of years prior to filming. After struggling to secure funding, Noah admitted he had begun to lose hope of ever seeing the project come to fruition.

However, his determination to see it through to the end convinced him to pay out of his own pocket for the project. Noah said he would be forever grateful to those who helped him along the way.

“I was a bit late getting into this, actually. I was always obsessed with film, but a lot of people told me, you know, Newfoundland just wasn’t the place to make it as a director, and for a while, I just couldn’t get the funds to make these movies in my head a reality,” he said. “But I’ve met some really amazing people along the way who have helped out tremendously, and while I think I’ve definitely put a down payment on a house into this movie, (Francis Ford) Coppolla mortgaged his house for 'Apocalypse Now,' so I'm not making that big of a risk, really. I wouldn’t ever have been able to do it without people like Rhiannon, Stephen, Troy (Maher, director of photography) and everyone else who’s committed themselves to this with me. Even people who donated equipment, or let me shoot in locations at a discounted price and things like that, it all helped me out so much. It’s all these people that make this movie what it is.”

Noah noted that throughout all the hard work that had gone into the film, he had a list of people who helped him out along the way. He told The Compass that without the efforts of Ian Vatcher, Sarah Maher, Thomas Noah, Hilary Thompson, Chris Newell, Jeremy Charles, Conrad Layden, Colin Merdsoy, and Jenny Hawley, “New Woman” would not be the same film.

Noah has, since coming back to the province after a stint in Asia, taken taken to focusing on his passion in filmmaking. After landing a job as a production assistant for Republic of Doyle in 2013, he says his career in the film industry has snowballed over the last few years, with “New Woman” serving as his second major project.

With the majority of the filming complete, Noah plans to put himself into editing mode over the next few months, and is hopeful for a March 2018 completion to meet the deadline for some film festivals in the upcoming seasons, followed by a May or June release. Noah wants to hit more film festivals throughout the summer season, which would prove to be the best way for anyone to view the film – on the big screen.

“In the future, things are still a little up in the air. I am now at the stage of going into my feature concept, which was my 5 year goal I made back in 2013 when I started out. I'll work on some small stuff between this release and that production. I've been mulling over this film, "The Kidnapping", for over for a lustrum and it's absolutely massive in scope at this point. I am going to need an army and a lot of funding.”

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