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Karen Allen’s film adaptation of Carson McCullers’s short story now available to stream

Karen Allen—whose talents run the gamut from performing on Broadway to opening a fiber arts shop in downtown Great Barrington—ultimately evolved from starting in front of the camera to orchestrating from the wings, as evidenced by her directorial debut of “A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud.,” now available to stream on global digital HD internet and satellite platforms.

Pittsfield — In 1978, Karen Allen made her inaugural splash onto the big screen as Katy in “National Lampoon’s Animal House”; three years later, she starred opposite Harrison Ford in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (a role she reprised in 2008), all before turning 30. In the more than four decades since, Allen—whose talents run the gamut from performing on Broadway to opening a fiber arts shop in downtown Great Barrington—ultimately evolved from starting in front of the camera to orchestrating from the wings, as evidenced by her directorial debut of “A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud.,” now available to stream on global digital HD internet and satellite platforms. This short film is distributed in partnership with Turn Key Distribution for pay-per-view platforms and Kanopy Distribution for libraries, universities, and high school streaming platforms.

“This short story has been haunting me since I read it 50 years ago,” says Karen Allen of Carson McCullers’ “A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud.” (first published in 1942) upon which the Berkshire resident’s award-winning film is based. The film—set at a roadside café on an early spring morning in 1947—portrays a young boy’s encounter with an older man who relates a luminous tale of heartbreak, loss, and a hard-won understanding of the nature of love. For Allen, this story loomed large among McCullers’ many offerings, notably as “it sneaks up on you and has stayed indelibly etched in [her] imagination all these years … flooded with the raw, tangible beauty of the natural world, set in contrast to the complex, intangible yearning for love in their interior worlds.” Allen chose the former Silverbrook Cafe on Route 57 in Sandisfield—“Best Little Honky Tonk West of the Clam River” complete with vinyl booths and chalkboard specials—as the primary backdrop for her 2017 film, pointing to the juxtaposition of a large-scale collaboration in an off-the-beaten-path, small-town locale.

The cast of “A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud.” Photo courtesy of atreearockacloudthefilm.com.

“It was a true labor of love to bring it to life as a film and to work with this extraordinary group of actors, designers, and artists in the Berkshires,” said Allen, a board member of the Berkshire International Film Festival and advisory board member of the Berkshire Film and Media Collaborative. “A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud.” features a wealth of local talent both on screen and behind the scenes. Jackson Smith of New Marlborough—12-years-old at the time and a film student of his neighbor, the late Douglas Trumbull—made his acting debut as “Boy,” while a pair of Emmy-Award-winning actors play the leads: Jeffery DeMunn (“The Shawshank Redemption,” “The Green Mile,” and “Billions”) as “Man,” and James McMenamin (“Orange is the New Black,” “Nurse Jackie,” and “Olive Kitteridge”) as “Leo.” The ensemble cast includes local actors Terry Holland, Kale Brown, and the late Karen Beaumont.

“The incredible quality and luminosity of this short reflects the level of film industry professionals we have in the Berkshires, as well as the gorgeous locations available to filmmakers,” said producer Diane Pearlman—who also heads the Berkshire Film and Media Collaborative—in a nod to the production team including director of photography Richard Sands; co-producer Amy Lynn; assistant production coordinator Laura Gratz; prop master/set decorator Paige Carter; assistant prop master/set decorator Meryl Joseph; key set production assistant Jake Diamond; set photographer Peter Baimonte; assistant to the director Midori Nakamura; scenic artist Dan Courchaine; set construction Thomas L. Ringe; graphic artist Perry Grebin; costume consultant Arthur Oliver; and composer Mark Kelso. The entire film was shot on location in the Berkshires.

In the six years since its release, “A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud.” has screened at prestigious film festivals across the globe, including the Short Film Corner at the Cannes Film Festival in France; the Woods Hole Film Festival in Massachusetts; the River Run Film Festival in Winston Salem, N.C.; the Worldfest Film Festival in Houston, Texas; the Madrid International Film Festival in Spain; the Port Townsend Film Festival in Washington; and, of course, the Berkshire International Film Festival. It received the prize for Best International Short at the Manchester Film Festival in England, along with numerous other awards, including the Newcomer Award for Jackson Smith at the USA Film Festival in Dallas, Texas.

“Karen Allen succeeded in running the sensitive snippets and flavors of McCullers’ story through a camera and they came out complete. It is a rare achievement,” said Cathren Housley in her Motif review of the film at Flickers Rhode Island Film Festival. Allen’s choice to make the film in black in white is evidence of her choice to give “[viewers] a place to sit in time.”

Keen on whetting your appetite? Watch the official trailer here; read the short story here; or take a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film here.

Despite the almost 76 years since McCullers’ story was set, its premise proves timeless: Upon their chance meeting, the man relates a luminous tale of personal heartbreak and loss—and of his hard won understanding of the nature of love—to the boy, in an exchange Allen calls, “a delicate, Zen like passing of wisdom from a older man to a young boy … when their two lives unexpectedly intersect.”

As to what transpires? Well, for starters it was raining that morning, and still very dark. As for the rest—stream it. Stat. From the comfort and convenience of wherever in the world you call home.

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