Director and writer Potsy Ponciroli was scouting a location for another movie in the countryside just outside Nashville, Tennessee when he saw a historic old house built in the early 1900’s at the bottom of a valley. He began thinking about how lonely and isolated a person living in that house might be, and it planted the seed of an idea to write Old Henry. Potsy ended up using that exact location, shooting in that house and the surrounding area. He and cinematographer John Matysiak set out to capture the feel of a classic western- a simple story taking place in the old west, showing how hard life was at that time.
Old Henry is an action western starring Tim Blake Nelson as a farmer with a teen son living alone on their farm. Against his better judgement, Henry takes in a wounded stranger with a bag full of cash. Soon enough, a posse comes looking for the wanted man and Henry and his son must defend their homestead. Potsy approached Tim Blake Nelson to star in the film, and the two met several times over Zoom to discuss ideas from their favorite westerns. Soon, Nelson was also on board as an executive producer.
During preproduction, Potsy and DP John Matysiak walked around the location, reading the scenes from the script, checking out different angles and shotlisting each moment. Shooting in a real homestead built in the 1900’s was very challenging due to the small rooms with low ceilings and small windows that didn’t let in much natural light. To keep the look fresh in such a limited space, they carefully figured out what scenes would be in what rooms and made sure they weren’t shot back-to-back.
John first met Potsy when they were working on a television show in Nashville together. When Potsy showed him the Old Henry script, John liked the ideas he had for keeping the film small and plot driven until it builds to the finale. John is passionate about finding a visual language for the world he’s creating with the art of cinematography. He did as much research as he could for that time period, looking at old photographs and paintings from the early 1900’s Old West to get a feel for how people lived at that time. He was influenced by more recent westerns such as The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and Hostiles.
John Matysiak and Ben Rock actually met through the group Filmmakers Alliance and John worked on Ben’s short film, Conversations as a gaffer back in 2003.
Find Potsy Ponciroli: Instagram @getpotsy
Find John Matysiak: Instagram @john_matysiak
Old Henry premiered at the Venice Film Festival and is currently playing in theaters and will be on demand on October 15th.
Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com//ep143/
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