indie film

Vt. Movie Shoot Gives Creative Community Much-Needed ‘Taste of Normalcy' in Pandemic

Musicians, actors, and production personnel who have been out of work because of the pandemic are collaborating on a music-heavy sci-fi film shooting in Vermont

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Dozens of actors, musicians, and production personnel who had been out of work for months during the COVID-19 pandemic are back in business—with a movie shoot now underway in Vermont.

It is for an upcoming indie film called "The Ballad of Ethan Alien."

As that twist on the name of Vermont's famous Revolutionary War figure implies, it blends sci-fi and state history, and is the brainchild of Nick Charyk—a musician with the alt-country band The Western Terrestrials.

"It's an opportunity to come together in a safe way and celebrate Vermont and the art we do here," Charyk said of the film project which he is executive producing.

The idea started with an Instagram post.

Ketch Secor, the lead singer of the band Old Crow Medicine Show, who's a fan of the Western Terrestrials, commented on one of Charyk's posts, "Let's co-write a song," and started them off with the title "Ethan Allen Wuz an Alien."

Charyk then thought the idea had the makings of a movie, so brought together dozens of people with Vermont ties who lost work in the film or music industries due to COVID-19.

"I haven't played a gig since early January," said Nick Heys, a New Hampshire-based musician who is working on audio for The Ballad of Ethan Alien.

The movie is shooting on the property of the drive-in theater in Fairlee, with safety measures in place because of the virus. Those include production staff in masks and actors performing in only small groups—with no big crowd scenes.

Heys said for creative types who have watched theaters and concert venues go dark in the pandemic, it's been great to get paid again to do what they love.

"It sort of feels like a taste of normalcy again, in this crazy year," Heys said of the film shoot.

"We keep describing it as sort of like 'adult make-believe,' so it's been fun to get to sort of scratch that little itch," said Misi Charyk, who is assisting her husband with the project and who appears in the movie.

Donations and grants from arts groups including Big Heavy World are backing this, and a fundraising push is planned, Nick Charyk said.

A rough cut will debut at outdoor venues in Vermont Halloween weekend, with The Ballad of Ethan Alien having its formal premiere next year.

Nick Charyk hinted that Vermonters can expect to see cameos from well-known local figures in the finished product.

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