PRETEND: When You Lose Your Job Sets A Stage

New film by Jim Ohm heads to the Film Festival Circuit in April

Filmmaker Jim Ohm has spent over twenty years editing award-winning documentaries for Turner, National Geographic and PBS, and directed his own independent documentary film, “Spring Training,” about the Red Sox’s pre-season in Florida. Captivated by the stories of human tragedy behind the financial collapse of 2009, Jim began what would become a three-year labor of love, writing a script for a short film entitled PRETEND. The story is a contemporary drama set days before Christmas about an affluent family man, Roger, who’s lost his job, is going broke, but pretends that everything’s all right. The only one who senses trouble is Roger’s pre-adolescent daughter, Maddie.

PRETEND cast & crew. Photo by Donna Megquier
PRETEND cast & crew. Photo by Donna Megquier

To bring the film to life, Jim chose established, local SAG-AFTRA actors. Bradley J. Van Dussen led the cast as Roger, his performance expertly capturing the desperation of a man in freefall. Georgia Lyman played his wife, Susan; Ian Lyons his brother, Chris; Cindy Lentol played Chris’ wife, Joyce; Corey Scott played a street busker Santa Clause; veteran actor William Bloomfield – the pawnshop owner to whom Roger, in dire need of ready cash, sells his silver; Paul C. McKinney played the angry driver; and Jack Tracksler played the real Santa. For the role of young Maddie, Jim cast his own daughter, Maddie Ohm, and had the unique experience of directing her first film performance.

As with any low budget project there are huge challenges at every turn. Jim tells us, “I didn’t have a lot of money, but I was able to tap my industry connections and get a core group of talented people who loved the story and really wanted to make a film of the highest possible quality. Led by Director of Photography Matt Thurber and Producer Beth Tierney, we assembled an amazing crew of local professionals.”

Jim Ohm with Georgia Lyman & Cindy Lentol in the kitchen scene in PRETEND. Photo by Donna Megquier
Jim Ohm with Georgia Lyman & Cindy Lentol in the kitchen scene in PRETEND. Photo by Donna Megquier

That group featured First Camera Assistant Tom Fitzgerald, Gaffer Chris Brown, Key Grips Walter Stone and Tony Ventura, Sound Recordist Djim Reynolds, Set Designer Alexandra Kayhart, and Make Up artist Ashleigh Taylor along with many others from a pool of talented, local technicians.

Jim Ohm continues, “They brought a sense of purpose and dedication, which made for a highly successful shoot and Matt just brought it all together. It shows in the footage”

The nine-day shoot travelled throughout the greater Boston area. As the story moves from the home of Roger to the home of his brother, Chris, Jim was looking for one location that could serve as two distinct interiors. He was fortunate to have a close family friend offer his gorgeous, spacious Lynnfield home to the cast and crew for a three-day shoot. After Lynnfield, the crew set up shop in quaint downtown Dedham—where the drama of an independent film shoot, which closed down part of High Street, made local headlines. Finally, Waltham played a gracious host by providing four separate locations: The Goldcrafters Exchange on Moody Street; the woods of the Robert Treat Paine Estate; the Lyman Estate; and the grounds of the old Fernald School.

Jim says, “Securing locations was quite time consuming, but I had support from friends who helped make vital connections. The story of PRETEND really grabbed people and it seemed everyone knew someone like Roger, whose life had been upended by the financial crisis, and they all wanted to be part of getting this film made.”

Matt Thurber on camera with Tom Fitzgerald and Djim Reynolds on the set of PRETEND. Photo by Donna Megquier
Matt Thurber on camera with Tom Fitzgerald and Djim Reynolds on the set of PRETEND. Photo by Donna Megquier

Jim’s script for PRETEND has already received accolades from the L.A. Fresh Voices Screenwriters’ Competition as one of only 13 scripts that are semi-finalists in the Short Film category, out of hundreds submitted. Renown Hollywood director, Joel Shumacher (ST. ELMO’S FIRE, BATMAN & ROBIN, A TIME TO KILL) will be one of the judges selecting the winning screenplay which will be announced in April.

Additionally, the D.C. Shorts Festival had high praise for Jim’s script: “The characters really popped and had their own voice,” “gut wrenching at the end,” “writer did a fantastic job.”

PRETEND is headed off to the film festival circuit in April and will have its local premier in May. To get more information on the premiere and the latest news check out the Facebook page for PRETEND.

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