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Happy Wasteland begins production of feature film in Pioneer Valley

Date: 7/11/2014

GREATER SPRINGFIELD – What was it like to be coming of age in post-Sept. 11, 2001 America?

Happy Wasteland, a small western Massachusetts film company, hopes to explore that very subject in their feature film, “Heroes Don’t Come Home,” which is currently in production in the greater Springfield area.

“It’s a story about growing up during the war on terror, kind of our generation’s story,” writer and director Jake Hulse told Reminder Publications.

Hulse, along with fellow Wilbraham native Mike Haas and Wade Wofford, an Atlanta, Georgia, native, Northampton resident and Springfield Public Schools teacher, initially started Happy Wasteland in 2011 with the intent of producing feature films – 90 minutes or longer – in western Massachusetts that could compete with big-budget Hollywood movies.
Their goal with “Heroes Don’t Come Home” is to capture the effect the events of the most costly terrorist attack on American soil had on young men of that time and how lives were altered.

The story, Hulse explained, focuses on a pair of boys, Tim and Ben, who attend a small New England high school. The two pledge to join the United States Marine Corps after witnessing the attack on the World Trade Center on television in their classroom, but life circumstances drive the two apart onto separate life paths.

“They kind of get separated and have different experiences in life and when they get back together at the age of 30 or so and they go through some drama together that really brings their friendship closer,” Hulse explained. “It’s not only about growing up post-9/11, but also about coming home from the war that a lot of our veterans are fighting in today.”

The process of accumulating all the pieces in order to put the film puzzle together was approximately five years in the making, he said. After a script was written and revised several times until a final screenplay was developed, the team went to New York City to hold auditions, finding what Hulse called “a great group of people willing to work with us.”

After that, Happy Wasteland continued to pursue personnel for their film crew and pull together as much capital as possible to fund the project. As a low-budget production, Hulse said they have had to get creative in certain areas to manage costs.

“We’re even using crew members’ houses to have actors stay in,” he said. “It’s not quite the Hollywood film with millions of dollars that people think of. It’s almost like a dream that a lot of us are trying to fulfill and we’ve scraped together as much money as we could get together and raised a little money from some supporters on Kickstarter.“

The shooting for the film will take part primarily in communities throughout western Massachusetts, including East Longmeadow High School, where they recently received permission from the town’s School Committee after scouting it at the suggestion of Unit Production Manager and East Longmeadow native Kelly Henshaw.

“When we went to visit it, it was exactly what we were looking for. We wanted to find a place that really felt like the building a lot of us were in when 9/11 happened,” Hulse said. “When we sat in our high school classrooms, they looked a certain way and they felt a certain way. When we walked around a couple of high schools, East Longmeadow High School just had that kind of perfect feeling.

“[East Longmeadow Public Schools] were very supportive of what we’re trying to do,” he added.

“We’re shooting all over western Massachusetts. We’re shooting at friends’ and families’ houses, East Longmeadow High School, some local businesses have been supportive,” he said, mentioning Dream Catchers in Palmer specifically.

Hulse expressed excitement in finally beginning to shoot the picture after developing a first draft of a script five years ago.
It’s a five year thing, but the last year is the most hectic one,” he said. “It very exciting because we’ve been planning for so long and now we finally get to do it."

Filming, he said, started July 11 and will continue for 28 days. After the shooting schedule is completed, approximately 30 terabytes of video will be put through a six- to eight- month process to edit and organize the footage, add the musical score and implement sound design elements – “everything from the way a car hums to the sounds of the crickets and the bugs,” Hulse explained.

When the finished product is in Happy Wasteland’s hands, the company plans to submit it for consideration in film festivals.
“We’ve got a few in mind. We definitely want to shoot for Tribeca and the Boston Film Festival,” Hulse said. “There are a couple of others, but those are the main ones that we’re shooting to get into.”

Happy Wasteland is still looking for people to help in the production of the film by serving as extras in scenes shot during the next month. Those interested in participating should contact the company at

Watch Hulse talk about the film here:

For more information on “Heroes Don’t Come Home,” visit