LEOMINSTER -- What happens when an aspiring New York
television reporter comes home to cover the sale of the last apple
orchard in the birthplace of Johnny Appleseed? The making of the
mockumentary "We've got Johnny."
In the short movie filmed over the last year in the city, Leslie
Danner, a fledging New York City reporter, returns to Leominster
to cover the sale of Sholan Farm and the city's attempt to purchase
"That's where the reality of the story ends," said screenwriter
Matthew Proietti. "We're calling it a 'mockumentary' because
the Leominster people the reporter encounters are exaggerated for
While uncovering the real story behind a lot of rumors, Danner
meets a series of eclectic characters who lead her to question the
values she's adopted in the Big Apple.
Everyone Danner meets, including a lady outside the Johnny Appleseed
Visitors Center, a motel clerk and her Leominster-based cameraman,
knows more apple facts than a normal person should.
"We agreed that we really wanted to goof on Leominster and
its dual role as Johnny Appleseed's hometown and the Pioneer Plastics
City," said Proietti. "It ended up mainly poking fun at
Proietti, a 1984 graduate of Leominster High School and now resident
of Lake Arrowhead, Calif., and high school buddies Andrew Grant
and Brian DelGiudice, with help from more than a handful of supporting
actors and crew, wrote, produced and filmed the short movie. It
is intended to be a comedy.
"The movie is set before the purchase and we definitely take
writer's license with it," Proietti said.
The lead actress, Alyson Ridlon, is Proietti's stepdaughter. Proietti
plays the mayor.
"The mayor is definitely not based on the real mayor,"
Proietti said. "I don't know anything about him (Leominster
Mayor Dean Mazzarella). My mayor is Dominic Refrigeri III."
In the movie, Danner interviews Refrigeri outside the Leominster
Public Library near the Johnny Appleseed bust. He tries to get the
reporter to buy some apple butter to support the city's cause, but
she declines citing bias issues.
The mayor then asks her to purchase a candle. She declines again
and he snaps on her, questioning her support of her hometown.
Leominster resident Susan Gardner, a volunteer worker at Sholan
Farm and member of the Friends of Sholan Farm committee, plays a
supporting role as an apple trivia whiz outside the visitor center.
"Andy and Brian bumped into her while she was doing volunteer
work at Sholan Farm in early September and talked her into acting
in it," Proietti said.
Proietti came home for a weekend in late April so he and Grant
could visit possible taping sites. The men met with LHS friend Jeff
Aubuchon and perused the script together over pizza and beer, Proietti
Grant grew up in north Leominster. His career includes 12 years
of film and video production in television, commercials, news, sports,
award-winning comedies, and now Web site work for Cisco Systems
in Boxborough. He directed the short film and did all the camera
work. He was also the project's director, director of photography,
additional photography, camera loader, camera operator, casting
director, co-producer, music supervisor, transportation coordinator,
location scout, post-production supervisor and editor.
"The goal was to amuse ourselves," Grant, now an Ayer
resident, laughed. "He (Proietti) came up with the idea of
what to shoot, and I just wanted to shoot something."
DelGiudice grew up near downtown Leominster. He worked previously
as a Sentinel & Enterprise photographer, and has many publishing
credits in the health care and biotechnology industries including
CD-ROMs, surgical videos and university text books. He provided
the sound work and designed the film's Web site.
Proietti, who calls home about once or twice a week, said it was
his folks, who still live locally, who have kept him up to speed
on news surrounding the sale of Sholan Farm.
But it was actor Christopher Guest, known for his work on the movie
"Waiting For Guffman," a goof on small towns and small-town
inhabitants, that inspired the local crew.
Proietti, a former newspaper reporter and editor for 13 years,
now sells real estate in California. In addition to script writing,
Proietti handled the positions of script supervisor, script editing,
creator, co-producer, dialogue coach and prompter.
The lead actor and several supporting actors are Grant's co-workers
at Cisco Systems in Boxborough.
Taping took place between Sept. 19-22 at several sites around Leominster,
including the Sholan Farm orchard, the Johnny Appleseed Visitor
Center on Route 2, the Johnny Appleseed birth marker on Johnny Appleseed
Lane and in downtown Leominster at the Johnny Appleseed Festival.
Grant is now editing more than five hours of tape, and expects
to have a rough cut done by Thanksgiving, Proietti said. It should
be about 20 minutes long.
Although intended to be just a fun idea, the project actually proved
to be work for the local men. They also walked away from the project
learning more facts about Johnny Appleseed than they ever imagined.
Proietti and friends hope the 20-minute, locally-produced and directed
video will be entered in short-film festivals around the country.