The upcoming High Falls Film Festival includes a movie set and shot in Rochester.

 

When he was 16, Jeff Barry signed up to work backstage on Greece Athena High School's play that year.

The plays are where the prettiest girls in school were, and some of his friends were working crew, so Barry thought he'd join them. It was his first time being near a stage. Then one day, the soccer player heard his name over the public address system. He was being paged to Judith Ranaletta's office. Athena's former vocal music and drama director asked him if he wanted to do more than work backstage. The plays always needed more guys, Barry said.

He didn't have a particular longing to do so.

But, "Judith was always so charismatic and so persuasive," Barry said.

He ended up in the choir.

"It really changed me very quickly. I remember it so vividly," he said. "I was just kind of standing there in the choir with everyone singing and it really affected me, the music. I stood around and sang very quietly to myself amidst the choir but it was a really lovely experience and I kind of got hooked on performing and what an interaction with an audience was."

Barry will interact with an audience once again next week when he comes to Rochester to show his latest film, "How We Got Away With It," at the High Falls Film Festival. The thriller was set and shot in Rochester. It tells the story of a group of friends who have an annual reunion and depicts a violent reaction to a tragedy they face.

The film has appeared in several festivals, including the Soho International Film Festival. Kate Dobbertin Bernola, programming director for the festival, said it was an easy decision to include "How We Got Away With It."

"There's something so fascinating about seeing the places you know and love captured on film.

Aspects of the Lake Ontario shoreline are featured in the film. Barry's family operated the former Crescent Beach Hotel on Edgemere Drive. It makes an appearance. So does Barry's grandparents' former home on Beach Avenue.

The film's plot originated out of a conversation a few years ago between McCaleb Burnett, who stars in the film, and Barry, who also acts in it. Barry started writing the film and knew he wanted to set it in his hometown. The two brought in director Jon Lindstrom of "General Hospital" fame and spent the next two years polishing their story.

Along the way, they teamed up with Erin Craig, an Irondequoit native and Pittsford-Mendon High School graduate. Barry had met Craig while he was a high school intern on a project she was producing. They kept in touch and co-produced "How We Got Away With It."

Craig said it was a thrill to shoot her first film in her hometown.

"I never in a million years thought that I'd be producing a full length film that would then be shot in Rochester and also then shown in my hometown," she said. "I am grateful to the teachers, directors and mentors I had when I was in high school. They gave me opportunities that I didn't even know that I needed and memories I will always cherish."

For Barry, the film is particularly meaningful because it captures images of two landmarks of his life.

"These two entities - Crescent Beach and the house on Beach Avenue - these two things that were huge parts of my life are not in my family anymore on either side and I look at this film and it's like I made a love letter to home not really even knowing it."

The film will be shown at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, April 20 at the Dryden Theatre, 900 East Ave. in Rochester. For a full listing of films, and to purchase tickets, visit www.highfallsfilmfestival.com.