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Monday, October 23, 2017

Top Stories > Arts and Culture

See some familiar sights ‘Halfway to Zen'

Sep 27, 2016

By Dan Hust - staff writer

By: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Toby Poser, John Adams and their daughter Zelda in front of the classic Mustang that has appeared in several of their productions.
WOODSTOCK — If you're a Floyd & Bobo's fan, you won't want to miss the premiere of “Halfway to Zen” at next month's Woodstock Film Festival.
The Liberty bakery and “snack palace” destination gets the silver screen treatment via both its kitchen/dining area and co-owner Ellen Marino.
“They asked if I wanted to be in the movie, because they said they wrote a part for me,” relates Ellen, who plays a character of the very same name. “The part probably parallels my personality, so I didn't have to draw on anything!”
You might also recognize Larry Steiger of Last Licks in Ferndale, or Madison's Main Street Restaurant in Livingston Manor, or the Sweet Tooth ice cream stand in Roscoe.
It's all home turf for husband-and-wife filmmakers John Adams and Toby Poser, who with their daughters Lulu and Zelda wrote, directed, produced, shot, edited, scored and acted in “Halfway to Zen.”
That's what they do in all their films, another of which was also shot in Sullivan County: “Knuckle Jack,” which debuted in 2013.

“Halfway to Zen” tackles similar themes, albeit with a completely different plot.
“We are interested in the struggle of everyday families - in particular, fractured families - and how they fight for cohesion,” says Toby, who earned a fan base for her turn as Amanda Spaulding on the long-running CBS soap “Guiding Light.”
“We are fascinated by the everyday unsung hero, and we strive to honor the dignity behind the hardship.”
The goal of “Halfway to Zen” is to address - and spark conversations on - several timely issues.
“It's hard to throw a stone and hit someone who is not affected by dementia or Alzheimer's in their family,” Toby explains. “Our youngest character is an 11-year-old girl who now identifies as a boy. We explore themes of addiction, the grinding cycle of violence, and the surprising nature of mercy.
“And we try to do this with as much humor and truth as possible!”
The local shooting schedule is a direct result of the family's long ties to the area, specifically their home and relatives in Roscoe.
“Though we love traveling and exploring new places, there's absolutely no place more beautiful and grounding than our mountain community,” Toby affirms. “Sullivan County's heartbeat is right in sync with ours, so it's easy and very natural to shoot here - really, it's as if the Catskills are their own character in our film.”
And the Catskills loves them back.
“John and Toby and their daughters are the salt of the earth,” says Ellen. “They are so sweet, kind and generous.”
Currently up in Alaska and the Yukon shooting “a moody western,” the family will be back in the Catskills this winter for another effort to be filmed along the Beaverkill.
In the meantime, everyone's looking forward to the premiere of “Halfway to Zen” - including Ellen's husband, Louie Petraglia, who assisted John and Toby while they shot at Floyd & Bobo's in July of last year. (Louie has been a grip for nigh 40 years, while Ellen has served as a production coordinator on commercials.)
Neither of them have seen the completed film.
“My husband is so through-the-roof with excitement,” she laughs. “He can't contain it!”
You can join Ellen and Louie in seeing “Halfway to Zen” for the very first time at the Woodstock Film Festival on October 14 at 1 p.m. or October 16 at 6:30 p.m. The first screening will be at Upstate Films, 132 Tinker Street, Woodstock, NY (that's the Ulster County town, not Bethel Woods!), while the second screening will occur at Upstate Films' other location: 6415 Montgomery Street, Rhinebeck.
View the trailer (and more of the family's work) at wonderwheelproductions.com/pages/htzen.php.

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