Filmmaker Laura Paglin wants her first full-length feature, “The NightOwls of Coventry,” to preserve the sense of community that helped define Coventry Village in the early 1970s.
“It’s an example of a street that survived as best it could and successfully retained some character without turning into a strip mall,” she said. “There’s an interesting mix of people in this city.”
Paglin, 34, a native of Portland, Ore, has lived in Cleveland Heights for 15 years within walking distance of the Cedar-Lee Theater and the Stone Oven, two of her favorite haunts.
Her interest in film started in high school with a wind-up Super 8 camera. Her first production was a 5-minute animated movie called, “Lego Trek,” a take-off on “Star Trek” that she did with friends from her neighborhood.
She begins filming “NightOwls” in October. The film is the focal point of an internship-training program developed by the Ohio Independent Film Festival, based in Cleveland. Paglin said interns can “Learn by doing it,” which is the way she did it.
Even though her script was a finalist at the 1999 Sundance Screenwriters Lab Competition, she said, “I’ve never taken a screenwriting course in my life.”
Set in 1973, “NightOwls” is a dark comedy about an odd cast of characters that hang out at Marv’s, an old Jewish neighborhood deli that’s open 24 hours. Any similarity to Irv’s Delicatessen, a former hangout on the corner of Coventry and Hampshire Road, is purely coincidental, she said.
Or is it? Paglin said Marv’s caters to “a drastically changing clientele of hippies, bikers, political radicals and Neighborhood Watch advocates mingling with Jewish widowers left behind in the wake of urban flight.”
She calls it the “dysfunction home to his motley crew of regulars who scheme and dream together.” Paglin hopes to present “a sense of community” and a “more human environment,” albeit slightly obscure.
She spent the past several years interviewing more than 40 former Coventry residents who had lived there since the 1930s and ‘40s and others who were part of the hippie generation. Interviewing bikers that used to live in the area was hard because “most of them were dead,” she said.
She also interviewed actor Seymour Cassel in Detroit two weeks ago, hoping he’ll accept the lead role of Marv. Cassel is starring as “mouth” in the film “The Crew,” which is in theatres.
Paglin is accepting donations of money, goods and services to help with her film.
“This is essentially community filmmaking,” she said. “It’s truly low-budget, but no no-budget. We are the little guys. It’s a true indie-feature film,” referring to independent filmmakers.
Her last project was a documentary called, “ Men, Women, Angels and Harps, “ co-hosted by the son of Harpo Marx.