Short Film Shot at Locations Around Hellertown (Photos)

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Film Hellertown Purple Heart

Credit: Chris Christian

A crew member on the set of Purple Heart wears a protective face mask due to public health requirements during the coronavirus pandemic. The short film was shot mostly in Hellertown over six very hot and humid days in mid-July.

If you thought you recently spotted a film crew shooting a movie in Hellertown, rest assured that what you saw wasn’t a mirage. Temperatures have perhaps been hot enough to produce such an effect, but a film called Purple Heart was in fact filmed at locations that included Union Cemetery and Neighbors Home & Garden Center in July.

Beth Clausnitzer of Center Valley was a producer for the film, which is one of a number of movies she has worked on in the Lehigh Valley over the past few years, including films that have featured Hollywood star and Bethlehem native Daniel Roebuck.

Mike Walsh, also of Center Valley, wrote and directed the short film, which is about a retired admiral and widower whose lonely life is enriched by volunteering as a greeter at a small-town garden center.

Filling the role of that business on-screen was Neighbors Home & Garden Center, which closed after 30 years of service to the community not long after the filming wrapped.

Walsh, who along with his wife relocated to the Lehigh Valley from New York City a decade ago, said it was fulfilling knowing that Neighbors would be immortalized through the scenes in which it provided a backdrop for the characters in Purple Heart.

He credited manager Glenn Panick with being especially accommodating of the film’s crew at a time when his business was in the process of shutting down.

Walsh said Hellertown was the first location he thought of for filming Purple Heart because it offers an archetypal small-town setting with a feeling of familiarity.

“I love the Hellertown Main Street,” he said. “I love the Union Cemetery. It’s a beautiful setting.”

He described Purple Heart as “a feel-good story that reminds us of what’s important.”

With its themes of service both in and out of the military, Walsh said it’s “going to remind people that there are still people out there who are giving back, day in and day out.”

The main character in the film–played by character actor Kevin Hagan–visits his wife’s grave each day before work, which meant that a number of scenes were filmed in the historic cemetery.

Although it features just two cast members, approximately 20 crew members worked on the production. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, all of them had to wear face masks during filming, which took place outside in steamy July weather over six, 14-hour days.

As much as possible, Clausnitzer said, the actors in Purple Heart maintained six feet of distance from each other, although in some cases the movie required them to be closer.

“When they could they wore masks right before they had to be in a scene…and right after they would put their masks back on,” she said, adding that she took a certification course in COVID-19 guidelines for film production before the filming of Purple Heart began.

“Everybody wanted to be safe,” Clausnitzer said. “Everybody was just happy to get back to work.”

Walsh agreed, and noted that due to restrictions related to the virus and the need to employ fewer people than would normally work on a film production, all crew members needed to wear multiple hats.

“Everybody was very appreciative to be working, as I am myself, and everybody really embraced the opportunity to take on more responsibility,” he said.

The Lehigh Valley isn’t normally thought of as a hotspot for movie production, but Walsh said it has a lot to offer, including its proximity to New York City.

The area is also blessed with abundant “scenic value,” he noted, and it has no shortage of talented individuals.

Clausnitzer is also a cheerleader for making movies in the area, which she predicted will continue to grow in popularity among filmmakers.

She noted that Roebuck’s next filmThe Hail Mary–which has been postponed due to the pandemic, is now slated to begin filming locally in 2021.

Next year is when Walsh said he hopes to release Purple Heart to film festivals, including local festivals such as Bethlehem’s Southside Film Festival.

Although the finished movie will only run about 15 minutes, the post-production work on it that recently began will take months to complete.

Walsh said he is also working on getting a website for Purple Heart up and running, and that he’ll be using mainly social media to help market it.

His directorial debut, the movie is being produced by his startup company, Drewlin Productions.

In addition to Neighbors Home & Garden Center and Union Cemetery, he and Clausnitzer both thanked a number of local businesses and organizations that assisted with the production of Purple Heart, including LANTA, the borough of Hellertown, McDonald’s of Hellertown, Dunkin’ Donuts, DiMaio’s Family Ristorante & Pizzeria, Rocco’s Pizzeria & Italian Restaurant and Hellertown Diner.

Photos by Chris Christian

A tombstone representing the grave of the film’s main character was used in scenes shot in Hellertown’s Union Cemetery.

A drone was used for the filming of Purple Heart in Hellertown.

Actor Kevin Hagan prepares to film a scene for Purple Heart in Hellertown’s Union Cemetery in July.

Crew members working on Purple Heart wore face masks as much as possible to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Although that presented an additional challenge for the production, it was readily accepted by local individuals eager to get back to doing what they love.

Crew members prepare to shoot a scene for Purple Heart in Hellertown’s historic Union Cemetery.

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