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Independent film makers find 'perfect' setting on Sandwich pond

Row Boat Dawn DS

Schorr rows onto the lake at dawn. (Courtesy images)

SANDWICH — When Kelly Henshaw, producer of the independent film "Heroes Don't Come Home," was looking for a location to shoot a few pivotal scenes, she turned to Google Maps. She was looking for a large pond or small lake that was near the Massachusetts home of Happy Wasteland Studios, and it had to have at least one waterside cabin but an otherwise undisturbed shoreline.

She started looking in southern New Hampshire, and worked her way north, until her monitor displayed Sandwich.

"This wasn't the easiest task, but (I) stumbled upon Bearcamp Pond and fell in love. The main cabin we shot in was everything our director was looking for and the pond itself was extremely secluded and quiet."

The film crew spent a week filming in Sandwich in July, 2014, filming scenes in two homes the production company rented on the pond, as well as scenes shot on the water.

Post-production work on "Heroes Don't Come Home," written and directed by Jake Hulse, concluded in September of last year, and the feature film is scheduled to be screened for the first time in Los Angeles on June 8, as part of the prestigious Dances with Films festival. The film has also been submitted to the New Hampshire Film Festival, which will be held in Portsmouth in October. Depending on its reception at film festivals, "Heroes Don't Come Home" might enjoy much wider distribution, such as through DVDs.

Hulse, a high school teacher who moonlights as a filmmaker, wrote "Heroes Don't Come Home" over a period of two years. Parts of the script were inspired by his own life. Hulse was a high school senior when the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 occurred, and he recreates the reactions and emotions that he and his friends experienced at that time. In the film, two friends, who grew up as close as brothers, are separated when one enlists in the military to combat terrorism. Several years later, when they reunite for a fishing trip, it's clear that events in the intervening years have turned the characters from friends to strangers.

Hulse said he made the film to examine the lasting effects of modern military service, as a wake-up call about the continuing burden carried by the young men and women who are sent off to war.

"It's too easy for us, who have this cushy, suburban life, to forget what they go through... We can't forget what we ask them to do," Hulse said.

A history teacher, Hulse said he also made the film to document what it was like to be an American teenager on the morning of September 11, 2001, and to be weighing the life-changing decision of enlisting for military service in the wake of a terror attack.

"I wanted to do something tiny to help us remember," he said.

Parts of "Heroes Don't Come Home" were also filmed in Massachusetts and in Texas.

Henshaw said that the scenes filmed on Bearcamp Pond were critical to the film's story line.

"Those scenes were extremely important for the film because it was a tradition to visit this particular home since the two main characters were boys. They grew up going there and it had to have sentimental value," she said, adding that the house rented for the filming evoked the welcoming, familiar feeling of a lakeside cabin.

Hulse agreed. "The cabin, the view out the window, was exactly what we were looking for," he said, including a swim raft just off the shoreline, just as was written in the script.

When producing an independent film, Hulse said the production crew had to accept compromises in areas, due to limited time and financing. But, when it came to the location for the fishing camp scenes, Hulse said, "This one had to be perfect."

He added that the Sandwich Police Department was very cooperative, too. The production company contacted the police department to let them know that they would be filming a scene that required one of the actors to yell for help while out on the water.  The department was considerate enough to send a cruiser to the nearby town beach, in case any beach-goers mistook the acting for a real emergency.

"They were super understanding and really cook about it," Hulse said. "That's not always the case."

To view a trailer, or to look for further distribution developments, visit heroesdontcomehome.com.