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Independent film ‘Angel’s Perch’ set in Cass

November 9, 2012
By Lauren D. Ragland Special to The Inter-Mountain , The Inter-Mountain

Why would 30 people work 14-hour days for three weeks either for free or for the Screen Actors Guild minimum daily pay rate of $100? The answer is passion.

The passions fueling the independent film "Angel's Perch" are ones for family love, community involvement and the state of West Virginia. This combination of emotions brought professionals from all corners of the country to Pocahontas County. These talented, vibrant individuals are creating a feature film that will bless generations of families living with the challenges of Alzheimer's disease.

"Angel's Perch" is set almost entirely in the historic logging town of Cass. The film "examines the delicate relationship between past and present, memory and loss," and the choices that must be made when a family member suffers from Alzheimer's, according to promotional material by Scrappy Cat Productions.

The film's creators are "committed to enhancing public awareness of the disease and the support services available to families through the Alzheimer's Association."

J.T. Arbogast, producer, author and lead actor, is continuing the legacy of his grandmother, Odessa "Dess" L. Kane (1924-2008), by "sharing Cass, West Virginia and Nana's involvement here," he said. "Her battle with Alzheimer's is rooted both in where she came from and where she wanted to return to, her home in Cass.

"All of her struggles in her last days were in her passion to go home, to go home to Cass. Even when she could look out her own window in town, and see the trains, she would not understand or realize that actually, she was home. She was always searching, searching for home."

This film is Arbogast's personal story of his relationship with his grandmother as the walls of disease Alzheimer's closed in.

"She was so proud of Cass, the place that she had helped to save so many years before. She was so proud of the place and the people. She struggled to hang on to her memories while living in a place that is a preserved memory, which also passes in time."

Although this might sought sad, Joyce Van Patten, who portays "Polly" Kane, said the film isn't depressing.

"This is not a somber, tearful film. It is as hopeful as it can be!" Van Patten said.

Her co-star, J. T. Arbogast, who portrays himself, agreed.

"Don't think for a moment that 'Angel's Perch' is a soapy melodrama. There is much humor amidst the daily trials of constant care," Arbogast said. "The balance of humor and levity with anger and confusion blend together daily."

Many West Virginians volunteered their time for "Angel's Perch."

"I love any opportunity to work in West Virginia and be a part of putting West Virginia on the map as an intelligent and beautiful place. It is a wise place, yet has a different reputation," said Michaela Sulka, of Cheat Lake, who volunteered her expertise on makeup and hair for the production. "This film relates to all of us in some way, and I am no different. My grandfather had Parkinson's and severe dementia."

Susie Sayre, who owns costume businesses called Briar Rose Studios in Beckley and Martinsburg, responded to the film's plea for volunteers.

"This is an extremely important story to tell; society is forced to deal with this more today because we are all living longer," Sayre said.

A Hillsboro resident said she was "proud to be involved in a film focused on the core morals that encompass what we have here in West Virginia. Family comes first ... in a loving way. These small communities in West Virginia, they are all this way - they care about each other."

"Angel's Perch is a true passion project," said Ashley Jones, co-star of HBO's series "True Blood," speaking from the heart. "I read the script and cried. I am proud to be in a project like this."

The paid crew was half from Los Angeles, Calif., and half from Morgantown. Housed at dormitories at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank, they all enjoyed their three weeks in the heart of the Appalachians this fall. Outdoors they biked and canoed, and indoors they listened to bluegrass by the Homer Hunter's Stony Bottom Blue Grass Band, which is featured throughout the film.

Cast members enjoyed mountaintop accommodations provided by the Snowshoe Foundation. Three weeks of old-fashioned hospitality and activities were organized by the Pocahontas County Visitors Bureau, area churches, community groups and businesses. Transportation was organized to airports, pharmacies and shooting locations at Cass, Green Banks, Marlinton and Snowshoe Resort.

Endorsed through a partnership with the West Virginia Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, the film project was made possible with special funding opportunities.

The producers said, "This a community-funded film with a projected budget of $475,000, much of it raised through donations, volunteer support and a successful Kickstarter campaign. Contributions are sill needed as the post-production phase begins."

Anyone interested in donating can visit for details. Donors can gain access to behind-the-scene action, videos and updates.

The filmmakers plan to submit the film to major U.S. and international film festivals. But the opening, of course, will be here in West Virginia.



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