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Filmmaker Sets up Shop in Montpelier

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Lukas Huffman in front of a poster for “Night Music,” at his Huffman Studio office in downtown Montpelier. Photo by Travis Weedon.
Filmmaker Lukas Huffman and his family drove up to Vermont from Brooklyn, New York, in May 2020, during forced postponement on production of his short film, “Night Music.” At the time, Huffman didn’t know Vermont would soon be his new base for operations. Now, from his Huffman Studio’s office in downtown Montpelier, he’s bringing a bit of New-York hustle to Vermont. 

“Night Music,” a film about the Alan and John Lomax field recordings of Black folk music in the 1930s, was recently featured at the Vermont International Film Festival, “Made Here” Festival. Huffman is also on the ground floor of a production collective for local filmmakers, and he has two short films on the Quarry Project dance ensemble that will be screened in the courtyard of Christ Church on Friday, July 8.

Huffman planned to begin production on “Night Music” in March 2020. His wife was due to deliver their second child in May. The emergence of COVID-19 and its ferocious spread through New York City postponed production and turned local birthing wards into nightmares of contagion. He and his family escaped the city and sought refuge with his parents in Montpelier, where Huffman was born and raised. 

New York was quick to get its COVID-19 protocols in place for film production, and Huffman shot his limited-cast, single-location indie short in January 2021. His pandemic excursion into Vermont, however, helped him recognize that working remotely was a viable option. “We realized it’s not impossible to be in Vermont,” Huffman said. “In fact, it’s really nice.” They relocated permanently in the fall of 2021.

“Night Music” premiered at the Breckenridge Film Festival, in Colorado, last September, where it was awarded “Best Short Drama” and the award for “Best Editing.” It finished its festival run by coming full circle back to Burlington for the VTIFF Made Here Film Festival, in April. The online short film distributor Omeleto has since released it on Youtube, where it is currently available.

Huffman isn’t focused on only his own work, though. He wants to foster a community of filmmakers in Vermont by collaborating with his neighbors, the team behind Well Told Films, Chad Ervin and Kristin Cantu, to develop the Vermont Production Collective. Ervin described the collective as a “grassroots connection point” between filmmakers throughout the state that enables “people to talk online and offline, so that they can collaborate, spurring creativity and sector growth here in Vermont.”

The collective is still in its early stages, but its Instagram page is already a hub for spotlighting filmmaking made in Vermont or made by Vermonters. Huffman explained, “one of our goals is for young people growing up in Vermont to have an awareness of the film industry and to let them know that the resources and community are in place for it to be a viable career path.”

Huffman is a case in point, and VPC is presenting two short films of his — shot in Vermont with Vermonters — in the courtyard of Montpelier’s Christ Church on Friday, July 8, at 8:30 p.m. (rain date: July 9). The experimental short films document preparation for Hannah Dennison’s Quarry Project, a site-specific dance and theater piece created for the Wells-Lamson quarry, outside of Barre, one of the oldest and deepest granite quarries in the country. Huffman and ensemble members will be on hand for questions after the screenings. Live performances of the Quarry Project, six years in the making, will take place August 52 through 21 at the Wells-Lamson quarry.

Travis Weedon writes about film and television and recently directed the White River Indie Films Festival.

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