Trailer for ‘The Holdovers,’ to be released this fall, features recognizable locations

By BELLA LEVAVI

Staff Writer

Published: 08-13-2023 7:00 PM

With “The Holdovers” trailer giving them a sneak peak, Franklin County residents are likely to recognize many familiar locations when the film is released in November.

Many scenes were filmed at Deerfield Academy and Northfield Mount Hermon School, along with other boarding schools in the eastern part of the state. Deerfield Academy’s campus quad in front of its main academic building is featured in the trailer, along with NMH’s gray stone chapel. Outside of academic life, the trailer also includes a shot of Shelburne Falls’ famous Bridge of Flowers, and scenes filmed at stores along State and Bridge streets.

Produced by Honest Scholars Production LLC and Miramax, and directed by Alexander Payne, “The Holdovers” is a comedic drama starring Paul Giamatti as Paul Hunham, a professor disliked by his students, fellow faculty and the head of school at a prestigious New England academy. Hunham befriends Angus, a 15-year-old student, and the school’s cook Mary, a Black woman (played by Da’Vine Joy Randolph) who just lost her son in the Vietnam War, as they spend two weeks of winter break at the academy learning how to understand one another and forge a better life, according to a synopsis provided by Miramax.

Along with recognizable scenes, one of the main actors is a local student. Dominic Sessa, playing Angus, was a Deerfield Academy student when “The Holdovers” was being filmed. Sessa graduated in 2022.

“It was an open audition. It was a coincidence that he went to Deerfield and they were filming here,” said Jessica Day, Deerfield Academy’s communications director. Sessa was chosen from about 800 auditions.

According to an article in the Deerfield Scroll, Deerfield Academy’s student newspaper, 12 Deerfield students auditioned for “The Holdovers.”

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“This is the first time … a current student winds up in a motion picture that happened to be filmed here,” Day said.

Sessa isn’t the only actor in the film with a connection to western Massachusetts. Day said many people on Deerfield Academy’s staff got to serve as extras in several scenes, such as for a scene where parents picked up their students for winter break. The staff received costumes from the film producers and dressed up in 1970s-era wear in accordance with the film’s setting.

“I am sure we will have lots of people going to the movie and looking for themselves,” Day said.

She noted “The Holdovers” was shot during Deerfield Academy’s spring break, so students were not on campus when the filming took place.

One discrepancy between Deerfield Academy’s campus and its depiction in the trailer, Day pointed out, is the producers flipped the orientation of the campus in post-production. In the scene where students run across a lawn on campus, Albany Road can be seen on the left “but in reality, it is on the right,” she said.

Boarding schools weren’t the only ones who worked with the film’s production crew, though. Shop owners in Shelburne Falls also took part.

Raymond Neal, owner of Boswell’s Books on Bridge Street in Shelburne Falls as well as Roundabout Books in Greenfield, explained the production crew borrowed several books from his store for the filming of the movie. His crew was asked to make a window display of books all published before 1970 to keep the film historically accurate.

“The staff got into it, gathering all the vintage books,” Neal said.

Dana Cusimon, who co-owns Beth and Frances Boutique with Jenny Buxton, said she loved having the movie filmed with her store in the background.

“It was fun. He is one of my favorite actors,” Cusimon said, referring to Giamatti. She added that she especially likes his performance in the 2004 film “Sideways.”

Cusimon said she watched as the crew filmed Giamatti walking down the street past her shop over and over again as two young female extras went window shopping.

Having film crews come to Shelburne Falls is good for the village, she said.

“It brings the crew into the shop when they are filming and it supplements the business when the films come out,” Cusimon said.

“It is a nice opportunity to showcase this lovely part of the state,” Day said of local filming. “We were happy to support that.”

“The Holdovers” marks the fourth production in Shelburne Falls, following 2013’s “Labor Day,” 2014’s “The Judge,” and Showtime’s TV series, “Dexter: New Blood.”

Deerfield Academy’s campus, meanwhile, can be seen in the background of the 1994 version of “Little Women” which was filmed at Historic Deerfield. “Death Be Not Proud” from 1975 was also filmed at Deerfield Academy.

Neal noted the fact that there is a density of locally owned shops and a walkability to Shelburne Falls keeps people attracted to the area. He said the built environment as well as the natural environment — pointing out the numerous old sugar maples — gives the village an appeal for filmmakers and tourists.

“It doesn’t have to be a big town for it to naturally feel like New England,” he said.

To view the trailer for “The Holdovers,” visit bit.ly/44X4nBk. The film will be released in select theaters on Oct. 27, followed by a wide release on Nov. 10.

Bella Levavi can be reached at 413-930-4579 or blevavi@recorder.com

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