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Alumni produce feature film “Saints Rest” in Grinnell

“Saint’s Rest” was written and produced by Grinnell alumni and was filmed in Grinnell this summer. Photo contributed by Gabriel Patino
"Saint's Rest" was written and produced by Grinnell alumni and was filmed in Grinnell this summer. Photo contributed by Gabriel Patino
“Saint’s Rest” was written and produced by Grinnell alumni and was filmed in Grinnell this summer. Photo contributed by Gabriel Patino

By Keli Vitaoli

This July, Grinnell was transformed into a movie set while “Saints Rest,” an independent modern-day musical, was filmed on location throughout the town. Titled for the infamous coffee shop, every scene in the movie was shot in Grinnell. The movie was directed by Noga Ashkenazi, a Grinnell alumna, and co-written by Ashkenazi and fellow alumna, Tyson Stock. 

In her request to the town of Grinnell to block off nine spaces on Broad Street for filming, Ashkenazi refers to the film as her “love song to Grinnell.” The film centers around two sisters from the town. One goes on to become a Broadway star while the other stays behind to run Saints Rest and grows resentful. The two attempt to reconcile the summer after their mother dies.

Sam Cox, owner of Saints Rest, was approached by the film crew in January to discuss filming that would occur in July. While at first the request was only to close and occupy her coffee shop for two days, that quickly spiraled into a request for one week, July 7th to the 14th. 

“There was a little negotiating there,” Cox said. “There’s a lot of people that we are a big part of their day, seven days a week. And you don’t want to lose customers, but at the same point you want to supportive of the creative process, so it’s just a big risk.” 

While they used the space, Cox claims the crew did not use most of the existing furniture and when she came back the place was, “tore up from the floor up,” with most of her furniture ending up in the kitchen for the duration of the shooting. Cox did provide the crew access to her coffee beans, an offer they happily took her up on, and her dog, Toby, did make an appearance.   

“I love the movie Mystic Pizza, but I have yet to take a drive to Maine visit Mystic Pizza,” Cox said. “But if it brings us to the foreground, then good for us.”

Melissa Fandos ’17 and Grace Lloyd ’16 were two of the production team hired from the PioneerLink intern search. Fandos was the movie’s second assistant director and Lloyd headed the Makeup and Hair department. Lloyd commented on the balance between appreciating the town in the film and disrupting the lives of the inhabitants to do so. 

“The thing is the film is both honoring Grinnell and just using Grinnell, and that’s a fact, and that’s a fact of any film I think,” Lloyd said. “The film itself is a very beautiful portrayal of Grinnell, but the process of filming it was definitely rough.”

The film shows off the beauty of Grinnell and also the beauty of the College itself with a scenes being shot on campus

“We did a few scenes near the train tracks by South Campus by Mears, and it was cool to see the campus on film – it looked really good,” Fandos said. “We also shot a few in the loggia on North Campus and the campus looked so beautiful.” 

For Fandos, it made the dream of being involved in film production post-Grinnell seem more attainable even with the College’s lack of film production courses.

“It was awesome because there is not a lot of film production on campus,” Fandos said. “So to see an alum actually doing it and making it happen was really cool for me to know I could also do this and make these connections.” 

The film drew in a lot of big name talent with the two lead actresses, Hani Furstenberg and Allie Trimm, being current Broadway stars, and the third, Dana Ivgy, holding two Israeli Film Academy Awards for Best Actress. It also features current and past Grinnell students as extras, and even Crosby, a regular attendee at campus events, makes an appearance. 

With hopes for acceptance in Sundance, the film will be shown across Israel, home to Ashkenazi and two of the lead actresses, in select cities in the United States and make a premiere where it all started in Grinnell.

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