Documentary filmmaker chronicles Wayne, New Jersey history
WAYNE, N.J. (AP) — Documentary filmmaker Paul Bastante can see for decades through the lens of his camcorder.
As part of his latest project, Bastante has found that the township’s history is rich, but complicated. It began with the revolutionary exploits of its namesake, statesman “Mad Anthony” Wayne, in the late 18th century, and it continues with the settlement along the shores of Packanack Lake, Pines Lake and other exclusive neighborhoods.
Its history has been sweet, at times.
Did you know that the Nabisco food scientist who concocted the crème filling for Oreo cookies had lived in the township? Samuel Porcello died in May 2012.
“If you Google Wayne, right now, you get nothing,” said Bastante, 49, whose film about the township’s history will be released in the fall. “You get ‘flood zone’ — you get things about corruption, and you just get all of these negative stories,” he added.
“Wayne isn’t like that. Wayne’s a lot better than that. In making this film, I want to raise its profile,” Bastante said.
The film, titled “Hills and Valleys,” is still in production. It will premiere at a red-carpet gala at the Wayne YMCA in late October; it also will be screened at local high schools.
Bastante said the film will be released on DVD and YouTube in mid-November.
The Y plays a prominent role in the film, which is expected to run one hour and 25 minutes.
Bastante said the film is broken up into different features, one of which focuses on the rise of local organizations, such as the Y and Wayne Police Athletic League.
Some of the film will be dedicated to local lake communities, while another part will be a narrated bird’s-eye tour of the township’s 25.2-square-mile landscape, shot using a camera drone.
Laurelwood Arboretum, a 30-acre nature preserve, off Colfax Road, will be highlighted separately.
The arboretum’s past as a commercial nursery, and its transformation more than 50 years ago as a botanical garden, is a story that has been lost over time. That is why Bastante said it is important to tell it in his film.
“A lot of people, to this day, don’t know that Laurelwood exists,” said Diane Bromberg-Stern, the arboretum’s volunteer membership director. “This film that Paul is making I think is going to bring attention to Laurelwood.”
Mayor Christopher Vergano said he hopes the documentary will bring positive attention to the township.
“It serves a purpose for the community,” the mayor said. “It might be a big town, but it really has a small-town feeling. I think that’s what he’s going to be showing.”
Bastante, of Butler, who owns Bloomingdale-based Silk City Films, has produced two other documentaries that give historical perspectives of towns.
His first project in that genre, titled “Bloomingdale: An American Small Town,” was completed in August to celebrate the borough’s 100th anniversary. His second film, “Before a Nation: The Story of Pequannock,” premiered in March.
Bastante, a native of Pequannock who attended elementary school in Wayne, said his films are based on towns with interesting histories and where local governments are willing to support him.
“We do the best we can on a shoestring,” Bastante said, adding that much of his work is funded by corporate sponsors. The Wayne film was backed by Farms View Roadstand, Patriot Pickle and Pizza One, among other businesses.
“We’re indie film guys,” Bastante said. “It’s a passion thing. We’re not Steven Spielberg — we’re not making ‘Star Wars.’ It’s nothing like that.”
Yet, he and the legendary director have at least one thing in common: Both men are filming projects on the streets of Paterson.
One of Bastante’s upcoming documentaries, titled “Paterson: My City,” will be released in the summer of 2020. Meanwhile, Spielberg’s remake of the 1961 musical film, “West Side Story,” to star Ansel Elgort and Clifton’s Rachel Zegler, is set to hit theaters in December of next year.
Paterson has been experiencing a considerable uptick in film projects within its borders. The city saw 23 productions last year, and it is expected to welcome as many, or more, this year. “The Many Saints of Newark,” a film written as the prequel to the HBO crime drama series, “The Sopranos,” is just one of them.
“Paterson is where the American dream came to life,” said Mayor André Sayegh. “We have a story to tell, and it hasn’t been told.”