CHESTERTOWN — “The Road to Galena,” which was filmed in part in Kent and Queen Anne’s counties — Galena, Worton, Chestertown and Church Hill — will have a free screening 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23 at Washington College’s Gibson Center for the Arts.
The screening is open to the general public but seating is limited. To reserve a seat, see https://TheRoadtoGalena.eventbrite.com.
Writer-director Joe Hall will be there to answer questions after the screening.
AVA Independent produced the feature film that was written and directed by Joe Hall.
The film stars Ben Winchell (Max Steel), Will Brittain (Kong: Skull Island) and Aimee Teegarden (Friday Night Lights) with Alisa Allapach (Light as a Feather), Jay O. Sanders (JFK), Jill Hennessy (Law & Order) and Tony and Grammy Award winner Jennifer Holliday (Dreamgirls, the Broadway musical).
It’s the summer of 1998 in the small town of Galena where Cole Baird (Ben Winchell), his girlfriend Elle Shepard (Aimee Teegarden) and his best friend Jack Miller (Will Brittain) are inseparable.
Cole loves farm life and the simple pleasures it offers but his domineering father, a manager at the local bank, is relentless in preaching his dogma of ambition to Cole.
Cole leaves the “limited” life afforded him in Galena to pursue the American dream that eluded his father (Jay O. Sanders).
A foregone conclusion, Cole proceeds down the path laid out for him: a Georgetown Law degree, marriage to Sarah (Alisa Allapach) — “the right girl” — and ultimately partnership in a prestigious law firm. Things come easily to Cole, and he reluctantly embraces this new, dissociative life amid the political razzle-dazzle of Washington.
With Cole gone, Elle and Jack fall in love and start a family.
As Cole’s star rises on the D.C. scene, Jack’s farm falters.
Cole’s visits to help his old friend become more and more infrequent. When Cole does come back to Galena, his estrangement weighs on him.
Happiness eludes Cole, and he longs for everything he left behind and everyone he left behind with it.
His marriage is not perfect, his life is not perfect and his dreams are not his.
According to the film’s synopsis, “Cole still feels the pull of a small town — his small town — and he aches for the community’s humility, beauty and care for the human spirit, but he begrudgingly returns to Washington and his life in the fast lane … until something happens that brings Cole back to Galena, this time for good.”
In the director’s statement, Joe Hall related how Cole’s story came to him.
“I was driving my son, Patrick, to a Boy Scout camping trip on Maryland’s Assateague Island. It was March — cold, gray and raining —and I was struck by the natural beauty of the Eastern Shore, with flat farmland punctuated by the inlets and waterways of the Chesapeake Bay.”
On the drive, Hall said, the story of Cole Bard “coalesced” in his mind, a man who felt called to the simple beauty of these small communities and away from the insincere glamour of his hometown of Washington D.C..
Hall said that night, against the cold, wet canvas of their tent, poorly staked on a windy beach, with wet sand stuck to nearly everything, he sat with a flashlight pinched between his chin and shoulder and scrawled the outline of “The Road to Galena” on a scrap of paper.
Hall said he sees Cole’s story as universal, “one shared by so many who carry with them dreams, often never spoken, and sometimes to the grave.”
The era of COVID-19 has prompted many to reassess their lives with the acknowledgement that time is not unlimited.
Naturalist-essayist-poet-philosopher Henry David Thoreau said, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
According to the director’s statement, Cole Baird’s journey shows us the possibilities that come with overcoming that desperation — sharing aloud our aspirations and taking that unthinkable step of living our own lives, instead of the lives of others — and defining success in terms measured only by our happiness and that of those we love.
“The Road to Galena” traveled its own challenging journey through a global pandemic, finding its voice at a time when the industry had been silenced by COVID-19.
Once health protocols had been established and a compliance program confirmed, “We set out on a six-week, masked, shielded, tested, bubbled and sanitized adventure through Maryland’s Eastern Shore and into the reawakening hustle and bustle of the Nation’s Capital in May 2021,” Hall said.
“Our Galena family was housed and fed by the remarkable staff at Pecometh Retreat Center, and welcomed warmly by the rural Maryland communities of Chestertown, Galena, Church Hill” and surrounding areas.
Hall said the residents of Kent and Queen Anne’s counties went to great lengths to provide for and join the sets in a COVID-friendly manner.
Having pushed the production from October of 2020 to April/May of 2021, the greatest obstacle was weather.
With the pandemic already putting the independent production to the test, there was little capacity to withstand a wash-out, which is not unusual in the mid-Atlantic in spring.
Miraculously, in 32 days of shooting, much of which was on location and outdoors, there was not a single rain delay.
Ultimately, Hall said, the story of the production was its remarkable team: producer Eric Bannat, co-producer Andrew Woodin, consulting producer Marty Schwartz, director of photography Clark Vandergrift, editor Christopher Cibelli and composer Paco Periago.
He described the group as “a dedicated and highly experienced crew that approached each day with optimism and enthusiasm, and a talented cast that rallied around a story in which each of us found a piece of ourselves.”