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At home, on location

Medford-based producer realizes a goal as he brings filmmaking experience to valley

Mail Tribune

William Windom sits on a ratty bench on the back porch of the old farmhouse in a scroungy undershirt and an old cotton bathrobe getting makeup dabbed on his worn icon of a face. It's a face familiar from 100 movies from To Kill a Mockingbird to Clint Eastwood's True Crime.

Barry Corbin stands nearby clutching a Bible as they pull tags from his costume and knead the muscles of his neck. Like Windom's, Corbin's is a familiar face, mostly from westerns like Urban Cowboy and Lonesome Dove.

The veteran character actors have featured roles in Yesterday's Dreams, and principal photography is heading into the home stretch. Corbin, 64, and Windom, 81, are scheduled to fly back to Los Angeles in a few days, and producer Sam Baldoni and director Scott Thomas would like to wrap up the scene, which is being shot Friday in Ashland.

The picture is being made by Living the Dream Productions, headed by Baldoni, of Medford, and partners Mike Erwin and Max Kirishima, who have been producing independent films since 1989. It's the first one they've made in Oregon.

For Baldoni it's a realization of a longtime dream. After moving to Southern Oregon a decade ago from Southern California to raise his family here, he continued working in Los Angeles but never took his eye off a goal of producing feature films here.

— Oregon is a great place to make movies, he says off the set.

Yesterday's Dreams is a drama about a 40-ish nebbish named Harvey finding somebody to love against all odds. The screenplay is by California writer Kevin Foster, who was inspired by Marty, the 1955 movie written by Paddy Chayevsky for which Ernest Borgnine won an Academy Award for best actor.

Shooting began about three weeks ago and is scheduled to wrap up this week. Thomas and some crew members are from Los Angeles. Others are from Portland. In all, the movie people will spend about six weeks here. Some scenes were shot in Shady Cove. Thomas wanted to shoot in Jacksonville, but the details proved too difficult to work out.

Today's scene is an exterior at an old ranch house overlooking the Bear Creek Valley just minutes from downtown Ashland. The camera and lights are set up near derelict car bodies and an old washing machine. Cables snake through the weeds. Far below, trucks drone by on Interstate 5.

The down-at-the-heels ambiance is perfect for the hardscrabble home of Windom's character, Herb, Harvey's manipulative father. Windom looks the part, sporting a four-day stubble, puffing on a cigar, pulling from what looks like a bottle of whiskey and exuding louche.

During a break, he says he started his acting career playing perhaps Shakespeare's greatest villain, Richard III, and he has loved playing bad guys ever since.

The only fun part is the meanies, he says. Good guys are no fun.

What's his character's motivation?

He wants to keep his son as a slave.

The whiskey he sips is actually tea.

When Foster, who also plays Harvey, brought the script to Baldoni, the producer thought it looked more like a novel, but something about it caught his eye. Thomas describes the story as two lonely people looking for love. He doesn't think it's too corny for today's audience.

After shooting wraps up, Thomas and film editors in L.A. will spend about four months on post-production. Baldoni plans to enter the picture on the festival circuit next year in hopes of a deal with a major distributor like MGM. He doesn't talk budget except to say it's smaller than a typical Hollywood picture and larger than a typical indie film.

In the scene being shot Friday, the pastor at Harvey's church, a country preacher played by Corbin, has come to plead with the selfish Herb to see the light and let go of his son. Two dozen cast and crew members stand by as Corbin and Windom get concealed microphones stuffed into their costumes.

I'm ready, Corbin declares.

He wears a new denim shirt and suspenders, cowboy boots and an old straw hat. He is a bigger man than he appears in the movies, and all the sportcoats from wardrobe are too small. It's decided it doesn't matter.

Corbin as pastor clenches his Bible and radiates righteousness.

Thomas calls for quiet, and the camera rolls.

Action, Thomas says.

He's a lazy bum, Herb says, and if it wasn't for me he wouldn't have a job or a place to live.

They argue.

What makes you a hard man? the pastor finally asks.

Life. Life makes you hard, Windom as Herb says.

The men speak their lines naturally, focusing on and playing off each other.

Several times Windom has to ask for a line. This is OK, because the scene will be shot over and over.

It's being filmed first in a long establishing shot from the front of the house with the camera on Corbin's back as he approaches Windom, who is seated on the porch facing the camera. Thomas will shoot the scene over from a different angle, closer, and over and over with close-ups of both actors to cut to in the finished picture.

A TV camera embedded in the movie camera relays an image to Thomas, who watches what the camera is getting from a monitor under a nearby tree.

Rolling, Thomas calls again. Action.

Large flat screens bounce diffused light onto the actors.

What makes you a hard man? Pastor asks.

Life makes you hard, Herb says.

As the confrontation between the two men sharpens, Windom's eyes go granite, and Corbin's voice rises.

He needs a companion, Corbin yells. And it ain't you!

He's a no-good bum and a loser! Windom insists.

He accuses Pastor of turning his son against him, accuses Harvey of coming between him and his wife. Corbin wheels.

Helen died of the diabetes while you was out whorin' around! he yells.

On a monitor, the frustrated preacher is framed stalking angrily around the side of the house and getting in his car.

Watch out for them chickens! Windom calls after him.

Cut, Thomas says.

Smiles break out, but not for long. The scene will be shot over and over. It's cold, and the afternoon is wearing on.

Rolling, Thomas calls. ACTION.

What makes you a hard man? the preacher asks.

Windom glares at Corbin as if he's never been asked the question.

Life, Windom says. Life makes you hard.

Actors William Windom, left, and Barry Corbin pose for a photograph Friday with producer Sam Baldoni on the set of ?Yesterday?s Dreams? in Ashland. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven - Mail Tribune Jim Craven