Tribute to beloved author

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WINDHAM COUNTY — The sudden and unexpected news of author Frank Howard Mosher's death last winter, one week after finishing "In God's Kingdom," rocked the literary world and Vermont filmmaker Jay Craven. His 28-year relationship with Mosher was both professional and personal; Mosher wrote novels about crusty Vermonters and Craven interpreted the characters from five of Mosher's novels on film.

On Sunday, at 1 p.m., at the Latchis Theater in Brattleboro, then again at 6:30 p.m., at the Whittemore Theater at Marlboro College, Craven will pay tribute to his friend through personal reflections in "My Life, So Far, With Howard," and a 25th anniversary screening film screening of their collaboration, "Where the Rivers Flow North," starring Academy Award nominee Rip Torn, Native American actress Tantoo Cardinal, and Michael J. Fox.

"Howard Mosher died pretty unexpectedly in late January," said Craven. "And many Vermonters already miss him for his laugh-out-loud humor and fertile imagination of our place. Writers miss him, too, because no one was more generous with his time and support. My tour provides a chance to reflect on Howard and his many contributions."

Mosher moved to Vermont in the 1960s just as Vermont's way of life was changing. He connected with this, as reflected in his novels about farmers, trappers, and bootleggers.

Craven moved to Vermont in 1974, eventually co-founding Kingdom County Productions and presently directs the Movies from Marlboro program at Marlboro College. Raised by grandparents who took him to see hair-raising Westerns such as "Red River," rather than typical children movies like "Dumbo," he saw that hair-raising quality in Mosher's novels and his characters had an edge that Craven appreciated. He thought, "Wouldn't it be great to make a film from one of his stories?"

When he received a message from Mosher, "Hope to meet someday." Craven replied, "Hopefully sooner than later."

It turned out to be sooner, meeting in 1984, collaborating on their first film together, "High Water," based on a Mosher short story, released in 1989. Craven described it as a wild and wooly experience navigating the production of an independent film, a frontier experience much like Mosher's tales.

Their second collaboration, "Where the Rivers Flow North," released in 2012, tells the story of an old logger, Noel Lord, and his Native American mate, Bangor, who fight a local power company in 1927, planning to build a dam that will flood their property.

Craven produced three other films in collaboration with Mosher, films that have an edge but are compassionate and appeal to a large audience including "Northern Borders" in 1994, "A Stranger In The Kingdom" in 1997, and "Disappearances" in 2006.

Craven said all of Mosher's stories had larger-than-life characters. In mutual admiration, Mosher once told Craven that Craven made his characters deal with each other even more intensely on screen than in the novel.

For "Rivers," Craven first tapped Paul Newman to play the lead role of Noel Lord. Newman passed, saying he loved the script but, "If I wasn't up to my neck in salad dressing, I would do it." Craven then chose Torn to play Noel Lord, knowing he would give a good performance despite his reputation for being difficult. Mosher was indispensable in keeping Torn focused and in the end the tension Torn often created on the set worked well for the story, as fellow actors benefited from the dynamics of his performance.

"Howard was much more than a source for our film stories and characters," said Craven. "He was also a constant ally, a ready source of laughs, and a steadying influence in times of strain. This was especially crucial during our struggles with headstrong actor Rip Torn on the filming of 'Rivers.' I will tell a few tales that have not been publicly shared before — because they capture a rarely seen side of Howard and his work."

Craven said he loves the challenge and adventure of film making, and to express what it is to be human. "Collaborating with actors to bring characters to life is magical. You need to build a bond of trust with the actors. A good performance can't be predicted, it just happens at that moment, then released into the air." He said he finds it exciting when collaborations are working, going into the trenches not knowing what will turn out, and after collaborating, it becomes something tangible.

"It is wonderful," he said. He is particularly enjoying the film he is presently working on with a great crew, "Wetware," a futuristic tale written by Putney resident Craig Nova, that will be out in the spring.

The proceeds from this tribute are going toward digitizing and preserving all of Mosher's films and providing a way for schools to access these films as an educational tool. Although "Rivers" has been digitized and stored in a climate-controlled storage facility, he saw a need to take action to keep all of Mosher's films available since most digital films are not being preserved and they disintegrate over time.

Tickets will be available at the door for both shows. The Latchis Theatre is located at 50 Main St., Brattleboro, and Marlboro College is located at 2582 South Road, Marlboro.

Advance tickets are also available at sevendaystickets.com. More information is available at kingdomcounty.org or by contacting Craven at jcraven@marlboro.edu. Craven's Windham County Mosher Tribute events are produced by Kingdom County Productions with sponsorship support from Vermont Public Radio, Marlboro College, The Latchis Theater, and Brattleboro Savings and Loan.

Cicely M. Eastman may be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 261




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