Indie film shot in Lancaster County is available for the public

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First Posted: 2/3/2015

“Mount Joy,” an indie film set and shot in Lancaster County, revolves around Alex, a small-town gal longing for a taste of the big time.

Katie Hyde, who plays the spirited character, could certainly relate.

“I can remember sitting in class in high-school, not listening to my trigonometry teacher, but sketching in my notepad what my New York apartment would look like,” says the Haddonfield, New Jersey native. “I wanted to have a closet just for my nail-polish. I went crazy.

“I always imagined coming to New York to act. I used to dream of being in a scene with Christian Slater. A healthy obsession with Christian Slater is where this all began.”

“This,” in Hyde’s case, is a successful – and multi-faceted – career as a producer, actress and web show host.

Hyde’s latest project is “Mount Joy.” Directed by her husband Jack Lewars, a Mount Joy native, and scripted by Philadelphia schoolteacher M. Angelo Mena, the movie premiered last year at the prestigious Santa Barbara Film Festival where it netted a largely positive review from Variety.

Now, nearly three years after it was shot, the Pa.-centric “Mount Joy” is finally available on DVD and as well as on digital platforms such as iTunes, Amazon, Dish and OnDemand.

“It feels so good that people are finally going to be able to see the movie,” says Hyde. “Finding distribution is the final frontier. And to not have the movie sitting on our hard drives and to really have it released out into the world is so wonderful.

“When we got the [distribution deal], I felt like I needed somebody to pinch me. The company [Premiere Digital] which picked us up said we were the only indie they’ve ever dealt with. “

“Mount Joy” follows a fictional Pennsylvania band called the Living Daylights as they struggle to make a name for themselves outside of Lancaster County. The movie pivots on Alex, who is the outfit’s biggest supporter as well as the lead singer’s (Jay Della Valle) girlfriend. Just as the band is on the eve of a national tour, Alex goes missing, throwing the group into disarray.

While there’s plenty of comedy in the indie-rock romance – as well as hard-charging musical interludes – “Mount Joy” eventually takes an unexpected swerve into dramatic territory. It’s the movie’s devastating second half which helps it stand out from the indie pack.

Lewars says casting Hyde as Alex was a no-brainer.

“Katie is Alex in many ways: she’s a beautiful bad ass,” he says. “This was a very difficult role to play and the movie hinges on how Alex comes across. Katie brought everything that exists in her, on a personal level, to the role of Alex, and it made for a genuinely touching performance.”

One of the film’s main attractions is its soundtrack which features a handful of band that hail from Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia’s Man Man, The Boats, Richard Aufrichtig, Carolina Liar, Yoni Gordon, Adam Parker and Straight Punch to the Crotch.

At its best, “Mount Joy” makes Pennsylvania feel like another character in the drama.

“I’m Keystone proud,” says Lewars. “[Mount Joy] is a beautiful spot in the world, so I knew Lancaster County would hold its own in a story about wanting to leave. It’s not at all that it’s a bad place, it’s just that [the movie is about] the fire in the gut of young people wanting to have an adventure. “

As the producer of “Mount Joy,” Hyde was responsible for making sure the shooting proceeded smoothly. Her duties ran the gamut from helping to cast the actors and hiring the crew to selecting locations and arranging catering and lodging.

Lewars says he couldn’t have made the movie without her. “It was an interesting dynamic on set. She’d be in costume, with the make-up girl all over her, and she’d be dealing with some other production technicality like permits or a broken light.

“Two minutes later, the cameras are rolling, and she’s totally present for the scene as an actor.”

Hyde believes that she and Lewars are the perfect team.

“Jack is the director and he has the vision,” says Hyde. “And I wear the producer hat. I’m the great communicator. I hire everyone. And I make sure that his vision happens in the right way.”

Lewars’ vision included a sequence in which Hyde makes out with Della Valle. The actress insists that having her husband direct her in a love scene wasn’t as awkward as it sounds.

“It’s a romantic movie,” she says. “We knew we had to shoot that scene so Jack sat Jay and I down and said, `We have nothing else to ride on except the audience believing that your love is through the roof so go make that happen.’ He kind of said, `make me jealous. That’s your goal.’ He knew if we didn’t have that scene we didn’t have a movie.”

Despite weather conditions that included hurricanes and floods, filming in Lancaster County was surprisingly easy for the filmmaking duo.

“It was nerve-wracking to make those initial calls, `hey remember me? we used to be neighbors, can I take over your house for a whole day and let my crew of 30 use the bathroom?,’ “ says Lewars. “But we really were welcomed with open arms. We couldn’t have made this film if it weren’t for the generosity of the community.”

With “Mount Joy” in release, Hyde and Lewars are ready to move on to their next project.

“It’s back to square one once again on a movie that has no momentum at all,” says Hyde. “It’s torture. But I’m writing right now….I’m drawn to bringing stories to life. It’s the only thing I want to do.”