To commemorate Veterans Day, a free screening today at the Jim Santy Auditorium will feature the drama “A Midnight Clear.” The film also has a unique local connection—although the film is set in World War II Europe, it was filmed in Park City nearly 30 years ago.
The film, which stars a group of up-and-coming young actors such as Ethan Hawke, Gary Sinise and Kevin Dillon, told the story of an isolated squad of G.I.s who run into a small group of German soldiers. They enter into a Christmas truce before the war, tragically, again intervenes.
The producer of the film, Bill Borden, will be here Monday for a panel discussion after the film. He said that, out of over three dozen films he’s worked on, “A Midnight Clear” is still his favorite.
“Most of our story, you know 95% of our story is a very personal one about how war is personal.” Borden explained, “It is one-on-one. It’s not about big things, and big movements and big explosions. It’s really about the emotions of what’s going on during the war.”
We asked him why they chose Park City in 1991 as the locale for a film about the Battle of the Bulge. Borden said they needed to find someplace cold.
“We found a really beautiful area that we could build a French chateau and also have accessibility to crew.” Borden continued, “So being in Park City we could draw from crew from Salt Lake and actually there was a lot of crew in Park City at that time too. We could build our chateau and coincidently where they’re going to screen the film which is the old high school was closed and not quite abandoned at that time. That we used as the interior for our chateau, so it worked out really great.”
White Pine Canyon stood in for the Ardennes Forest, with only a tank and some jeeps suggesting a larger war going on.
For interior scenes—such as a French chateau where the protagonists hole up—the film makers worked in the then-unused Carl Winters Building—now the site of the Library Center and the Santy Auditorium.
Park City Museum Director Sandra Morrison reviewed the history of the building.
“The school district owned the building.” Morrison explained, “It was the high school built in the nineteen-teens. As was high school for decades. Of course, as Park City grew with the ski economy they built the new high school that we’re still using today. They turned the building into a middle school. It actually hadn’t had a middle school the city hall building was the primary school at the time. Called it Carl Winters after the school superintendent who had actually started working in the school district in the 30’s. A really long tenured school superintendent in Park City. Then they built Treasure Mountain Middle School, and this was the 1990’s and didn’t have a use for the building. So basically, boarded it up and it was sitting there. At one point the city purchased it from the school district.”
Margaret Hilliard, the production manager on the film, said they used all three floors of the building.
“We did.” Hilliard said, “We filmed in what is now the library was the gymnasium. The first level, street level, we turned into a hospital. The auditorium we turned into the attic of the chateau.”
Also, of note, the winter of 1990 to 91 in the Park City area was one of the coldest in recent memory. We asked Borden if that was a challenge.
“What’s funny was the Utah crew was used to it in some ways.” Borden said, “They all showed up and they were ready to do it. I think it was a wonderful challenge, but I think they were not challenged as maybe Margaret and myself who come from an area with less snow.” Hilliard added that she recalls it being incredibly cold. “Especially after the sun went down at about 5:00 it was brutal up there. We had a base camp that was on the White Pine Canyon road where we had the make-up and hair and catering. It was a pretty rough place.”
The free screening for Veterans Day is Monday 7:00 pm at the Jim Santy Auditorium.