Local Heroes Return
When The Heroes of Arvine Place screens at the 16 th annual RiverRun International Film Festival this week, it will represent a homecoming for writer/producer Damian K. Lahey, a 2000 UNCSA School of Filmmaking graduate making his feature directorial debut, and leading man Cullen Moss, born and raised in Winston- Salem.
Set during the holiday season in Jacksonville, Fla., the story focuses on Kevin Hedges, a single father recently widowed and unemployed. An aspiring author, he pins his hopes on winning an annual children’s-book competition while trying to keep his life from bottoming out entirely.
As if raising two young daughters (newcomers Celia Marvele Dusinberre and Bella Myers) and dealing with dwindling finances weren’t enough, Kevin is also the only one on speaking terms with his siblings. Trying to repair his dysfunctional family is simply yet another uphill task.
Lahey and Moss previously worked together on Ball of Wax, a short film made in Wilmington, and the two also had many UNCSA acquaintances in common. Moss recalls that the original concept for The Heroes of Arvine Place was more satirical before Lahey decided to adopt a gentler, humanist approach.
“It was a great script,” Moss says. “It spoke to me. The moments were written as very real to me, so it was easy to play. Damian directed it very well and he was very specific. He really grounded me.”
Lahey’s inspiration for the film came 10 years ago, when he was working on a children’s book of his own and dating a woman who had three children. “They were a blast,” he recalls. “I can honestly say that was one of the best times in my life.”
At the time, Lahey was outlining two scripts, one of which became the 2006 drama Cocaine Angel and the other being Heroes of Arvine Place. “The scripts I wrote after the release of Cocaine Angel were all optioned, etc., … but I held on to The Heroes of Arvine Place.
“What I set out to do was make a film that summarized my life up to that point and a springboard for things going forward – so it literally includes people and places from all aspects of my life,” Lahey explains. “I got together with a bunch of old pals and made a micro-budgeted, quirky Christmas card of a movie … I’m also a big sap around the holidays so there you have it!” Moss, whose small-screen appearances include stints in “One Tree Hill” and “Eastbound & Down” – both involving old UNCSA buddies – has also appeared in The Conspirator (2010), Seeking Justice (2011), last year’s blockbuster hit Iron Man 3, and no less than three Nicholas Sparks adaptations to date (The Notebook, Dear John, Safe Haven). “I don’t know if there’s a place for me in the next one,” he jokes.
“Being an actor in the Southeast is a tricky road – to try to have that be your livelihood,” he notes. “I’ve been fortunate to have broken through somewhat.”
With two much-younger sisters and a 10-year-old son from a previous relationship, Moss has some parenting practice when it came to working with onscreen offspring Dusinberre and Myers. “They were so good,” he praises. “They were just phenomenal.”
Their casting, Lahey admits, was “one of those film fluke things that you sometimes luck into.”
Myers’ mother worked at the production center where the filmmakers had their offices and Dusinberre was the daughter of co-producer Brian Jerin’s friend. “The two girls really hit it off, which was great,” says Lahey. “We were blessed to have them – they were naturals and really rocked the house!” Lahey is co-producing a short film that he wrote, also to be filmed in Jacksonville, and he and Moss plan to re-team for another feature that will also reunite much of the same crew – including fellow UNCSA graduates Craig Moorhead (editor) and Tarina Reed (cinematographer).
As for Moss, he has completed a role in the fourth episode of the CBS legal drama “Reckless,” a big-screen appearance with Michael Shannon and Andrew Garfield in 99 Homes (directed by fellow Winston-Salem native Ramin Bahrani), and a recurring role in AMC’s upcoming series “Turn,” which dramatizes the first American spy ring during the Revolutionary War. “I’m a good guy,” he boasts, “unless you’re a Redcoat!” The actor is hoping and planning on attending the festival with Lahey, but as he and his wife are expecting their first baby (a boy) – the due date is the second week of the festival. !
The Heroes of Arvine Place will be screened 1 pm Saturday at Gold Theatre on the UNCSA campus (1533 S.Main St.), 4:30 pm Sunday at a/perture cinemas (311 W. Fourth St.), 5 pm Monday at Hanesbrands Theatre (209 N. Spruce St.). Tickets are $12. For advance tickets or more information, call 336.724.1502 or visit the official RiverRun website: 2014.riverrunfilm.com.