Over the years, Philly director Ben Hickernell has booked an impressive catalog of local and national commercial work, from TV ads for the Phillies to marketing videos for regional theater companies.
But now he’s fighting to market something much closer to the heart: his second full-length film, “Lebanon, PA.” The movie premiered earlier this year at the revered South by Southwest Festival and — like too many up-and-coming indie films — “Lebanon, PA” is riding an anxiety-riddled tour of festivals in search of the indie Holy Grail: a distributor.
“These days the advances are smaller — if you actually do sell your film. It used to be the dream was you could make your money back with your second screening at Toronto or wherever,” says Hickernell. “Right now it’s a much longer process, but we’re up for it, ’cause we love it.”
“Lebanon, PA” — named for the small town where the film is set — focuses on a slick Philly ad man traveling from blue to red Pennsylvania for his father’s funeral, making life-changing relationships in the process.
“It’s about the cultural divide in America right now,” says Hickernell. “But these differences play themselves out on a very human level in the lives of people in this country. For the characters, these issues aren’t something they want to debate on TV. They’re differences they have with people they love.”
“Lebanon, PA” is full of actors from the Philly theater scene: Ian Peakes, Lenny Haas, Pete Pryor and Maureen Torsney-Weir, just name a few. It also features nationally recognized names like Josh Hopkins, Mary Beth Hurt and Samantha Mathis. But luring stars is all part of the Holy Grail: “I knew I was going to use some of the great Philly people,” says Hickernell. “But in the end, we needed some famous actors to help market the film.”