On Location: A New England Village

New York Times article on Shelburne Falls, MA

SHELBURNE FALLS, Mass. - UP in the highlands of western Massachusetts, a Brigadoon lies squirreled away in the dense forest. Indians fished for salmon at the falls on the Deerfield River here in the 17th century; Europeans settled here in the 18th century. After the Mohawk Trail, designated a scenic road, opened early in the 20th century, touring families began to discover the attractions of this town, named for William Petty, Earl of Shelburne. And now, 100 years later, explorers have arrived from out West.

In the last year, Hollywood has made Shelburne Falls the cinematic canvas for two movies. Overnight, with a little window dressing, this village can mutate into other places or eras. Any morning, townsfolk could wake up in a Colonial village, the Wild West or even Indiana.

For Emily Bourque, a waitress at the Gypsy Apple restaurant on Bridge Street, there's magic in watching that transformation. "The last movie, we were in New Hampshire," she said, "and now Indiana. I'm interested to see where we'll be in the next one."

"Labor Day," filmed here last year and scheduled for release on Christmas Day, is set in Holton Mills, N.H., an imaginary town at the heart of Joyce Maynard's novel of the same title. "The Judge," which takes place in the fictional Indiana town of Carlinville, was filmed here this summer.

The team behind "The Judge," which is directed by David Dobkin and stars Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall and Vera Farmiga, spent a lot of time searching for a location with just the right small-town appeal, said Susan Downey, a producer of the film and Mr. Downey's wife. Shelburne Falls, somewhat surprisingly, matched their photographs of southern Indiana, she said.

The town, not far from Greenfield and the Vermont border, is "very much a character" in the story, Mrs. Downey added. Its image had to "speak quickly" to the viewer and relay what it would feel like for a man to return to the place he had walked away from years before.

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