Just returned from seventeen days in LaPorte. We’ll be updating the site shortly with more production stills and stories from our time in town. Two more shoots to go… we have a feeling this film is going to be something special. Here, we followed some local high school seniors over to the New Buffalo Beach on the shores of Lake Michigan two days before their graduation.
One afternoon not long ago, after lunch at a small Midwestern diner, I stumbled onto a forgotten archive. In the back of the B & J’s American Cafe were box upon box of studio portraits of the townspeople of LaPorte, Indiana—over 18,000 in total.
Taken over three decades by local photographer Frank Pease, the photos marked many important milestones—a sailor in uniform, a graduate in cap and gown, a couple newly-engaged—while others made modest attempts at posterity. Though in subsequent decades, conventional portrait studios have fallen out of favor to snapshots and iPhone pics, Frank Peases’ archive collects many of the significan moments and events that define all of our lives. I instantly fell in love with these photographs and soon compiled many of them into the book “LaPorte, Indiana.”
The feature documentary film, LaPorte, Indiana will bring these Frank Pease photographs to life, sharing the vivid stories which create this tight-knit American community.
Emmy-nominated editor and first-time Director, Joe Beshenkovsky, was equally taken by these photos and understood that the story of an entire town rested in those twenty-two boxes. We soon travelled to Indiana in search of these personalities, to learn how their lives unfolded forty years after their portrait was snapped.
After multiple trips and shoots, we’re thrilled with the stories we’ve uncovered. We’ve already shot sit-down interviews with fifteen characters from the Frank Pease photos, and have tagged along with young LaPorteans as they graduate from high school, get married and decide where they will settle down in town, or set off elsewhere to raise their kids.
Falling somewhere between The Straight Story, Errol Morris’ films, and the Up Series, LaPorte, Indiana will help shed some light on how communities help shape their citizens and how and why people make the decision to stay in the town where they were raised, or how they decide to find their way elsewhere.
Director Joe Beshenkovsky was awarded the 2009 Emmy Award for Nonfiction Editing for his work on the Showtime television series “This American Life,” based on the celebrated public radio program. Other projects include “Objectified,” a documentary film currently in theaters, and numerous television series and programs sponsored by the UN and State Department.
Producer Jason Bitner is the co-creator of FOUND Magazine, an internationally-acclaimed show-and-tell project celebrating found notes, letters and other ephemera, and the creator of Cassette From My Ex, a storytelling project based around love and mixtapes. Jason’s work has been widely published and reviewed, and has been featured in print, web, radio, and television appearances including The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe, National Public Radio, SPIN Magazine, The New Yorker and many others.