More to love: Ben Lovett stages massive film shoot downtown

Ben Lovett has a habit of going big. From his free record release at The Grey Eagle last year (complete with a massive, who’s-who of local musicians for a backing band and free ice cream) to the epic Ghost of Old Highways project, the rocker/composer/producer/multi-instrumentalist has a penchant for flare.

To promote his debut solo effort, Highway Collection, Lovett pledged to film a video for each of the album’s nine songs. Crazy, right? Not as crazy as it sounds. Before moving to WNC in 2010, Lovett enjoyed a successful career composing film scores in Los Angeles. Naturally, years in the industry left him with a number of friends and contacts, which he now calls on for help making his own music videos (often trading composing work on their film scores for their assistance on his productions).

Already, Lovett has completed five videos, including “Heart Attack,” which features an all-local cast and was filmed at Echo Mountain Recording Studio; “Eye of the Storm,” a Hollywood-style CGI film; and Ghost of Old Highways, a 15-minute, Civil War-era short, the release of which included a performance and screening at Moog, an art opening at Satellite Gallery (with props, photos and costumes from the film) and a dance party at The LAB. 

Not surprisingly, his latest project was no small undertaking. Last week, Xpress dropped by the Masonic Temple to check out the set of “Black Curtain,” a period piece set in the 1920s. Like Ghost of Old Highways, the production had already taken on epic proportions.

Photo by Bill Rhodes

While our time on the set was brief, there was a palpable sense of hurry up and wait. Dozens of extras, who had been in full costume and makeup since 10 a.m., wandered the halls or sat quietly awaiting their call to action. Another dozen crew members gave and received direction on wireless radios (imagine undercover cops or Secret Service) while production assistants scrambled to fulfill the orders. All told, more than 100 locals volunteered their time for the shoot, and nearly as many traveled from Atlanta and Charleston to participate. However, the majority of key positions were held by Ashevilleans, including Paul Schattel (director), Kelly Denson (producer), Shane Meador (production designer), Christi Sue Whitely (art director) and Anna Stachow (makeup artist).

As an outsider, observing a film shoot can be a strange experience, especially in a historic building like the Masonic Temple. On one hand, it’s easy to lose touch with reality when elaborate decor and century-old portraits line the walls and actors in flapper garb and tuxedos surround you. On the other, high-tech cameras on rails, smoke machines, electronics and computer screens quickly destroy the illusion. It’s an unavoidable, but no less confusing paradox. Then there’s the awkwardness of watching a band lip-synch its own song, feigning enthusiasm and vigor while cameras pan from side to side and the rest of the room sits motionless and silent. It’s hard to imagine how that could ever be anything but weird.

Luckily, judging from the playback on the main screen, the awkwardness doesn’t translate to film. Anyone who’s seen a finished Lovett production can tell you that the man knows what he’s doing, and “Black Curtain” is sure to be no exception to that rule.

Check out this slideshow from the shoot:

Photos by The Dorn Brothers


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