"I get yelled at for coming here a lot," Brian Troy joked as he sat down at High Point Cafe's Carpenter Lane location, a hot drink in front of him while he eyed the baked goods to the right.
Troy, like lots of people, can't be blamed for liking the food High Point offers. He lives around the corner, and the draw of its apple cake or its cinnamon buns is enough to draw the most casual of observers—never mind someone who is close by pretty much all the time.
But Troy and his wife, Bethany Ditnes, have had a slightly less emotional reason to come by High Point recently—they've been shooting a documentary on the coffee shop's owner, Meg Hagele, over the past few weeks.
The documentary represents Troy and Ditnes' efforts to branch out in their filmmaking. They recently became owners of Zag Films, an independent company, and have worked for the company since it was created two years ago. They've owned it for two months (the two purchased it from founder Brian Adams) and are now in the process of making it into an LLC.
Focusing on High Point
Troy and Ditnes have mostly shot weddings thus far, but they want to try and do other projects as well.
"We're trying to use our time in between the weddings a little more wisely," Ditnes said.
Enter the idea for a documentary on High Point. For the couple, one word, in particular, defines the offerings there.
"Artistry," Ditnes said. "There's a soul to this place that people should know about."
Troy asked Hagele if she would be up for allowing them to shoot there, and she was on board right away. He also pitched it to her by telling her she could use it on the shop's website.
He wants it to have a French New Wave style so it can be intimate, stylized and have "a nice polished look," as Troy puts it.
In fact, he said, he works to have most of his work adhere to its conventions.
"He's trying to find a way to light things to make every shot look like art, which is kind of like the same thing they do here," Ditnes said.
Troy is generally the filmmaker for Zag, while Ditnes does production work and contributes to other elements as well. (She's also acted around the region and was in Quintessence Theatre Group's productions of The Venetian Twins and The Merchant of Venice.)
The two don't really have other employees, and one day, they said, they'd love to be able to hire others.
It's also significant to them to be doing this in Philadelphia. Ditnes grew up in Mt. Airy, and Troy went to Drexel University and has lived here ever since.
"This is not the perfect city for us to be in for our work," Ditnes said. Troy, for his part, said things can be easier for filmmakers in New York or Los Angeles.
But that's part of the reason they enjoy doing what they're doing here.
"Our secret hope is that, if this can be a community where we can create our own work, then, yeah, we might be able to fill a hole," Ditnes said.
Troy said the couple could also travel and do work in other cities as well.
They know, though, that there's still work to be done.
It would help, Ditnes said, if they "could convince people in this city that this is important and that there's value in good quality media."
Zag recently got a gig shooting a film for Troegs Brewing Company—its first big name client.
For now, they're doing it mostly on their own. The movie will probably run three to five minutes or so, and shooting is being completed this week.
Hagele, they said, was an excellent interview. They asked her, for instance, about the five things she'd take with her from High Point if she had to go to a desert island.
The answer: Her espresso machine, the floor inside, the outdoor bench, the countertop and—for those waiting for her to name a food—the cheese brioche.
"She got a little choked up," Ditnes said.
After its done, they'll continue to visit High Point. Troy plans on defending an important title he won during last year's Mt. Airy Village Fair.
High Point provides the goodies for the fair's pie eating contest, and Troy won it last year. He's already planning his strategy for 2012—suffice it to say that he'll be eating lots of salad in the days leading up to that September weekend.
He won a butternut squash pie for being victorious in the contest. It was heavenly, and it's that love for High Point's offerings that initially convinced him to make the film.
"The crust," he said. "Jesus. Get out of here."