Winchester friends write film about growing up, love

By Josette Keelor

Ben Solenberger and Jaymes Camery, both 26, met in second grade at Apple Pie Ridge Elementary School in Frederick County. It was the start of their friendship, but it’s also given them a solid base of writing material to use for their movies.

Their current project, a romantic film called “Guys and Girls Can’t Be Friends” directed by Camery, stars the two as friends balancing relationships and the trials of adulthood. Nick Burr, who knows Solenberger and Camery from their new home in Los Angeles, plays the third character Billy.

Many films that take place in rural towns outsiders have never heard of might actually be filmed in Hollywood, and Solenberger admits he was going to shoot this one in L.A. too, until his childhood friend convinced him otherwise.

“We grew up here,” Solenberger said. “This is where the true heartbreak happened.”

“Oh,” Camery added, “stop saying that, it’s loosely.”

Solenberger conceded, “That’s what initiated the idea. But then Jaymes took his next 47 heartbreaks .. and we incorporated all those.”

“I think,” Camery explained, “we’ve taken our own experiences and related it to this film as well as stories we’ve heard from other people.”

“As writers,” he said, “I guess we can take a lot of stuff from what other people say.” But the story is based in large part on their experiences growing up in Winchester, and Camery said he believes that’s what will make people connect with the story. “It’s personal and it’s easy to connect with, and it’s real.”

“It’s about falling in love for the first time in a small town and the good things that come with that and the bad things that come with that and how you rebound from that first heartbreak,” he said.

As Mike, he’s “on the verge of like getting engaged but kind of iffy about it, and then Ben’s character just wants to fall in love and he wants the American dream of getting married, a house and growing old with somebody.”

Burr described his character as the rock of the group, the only one who’s married, but Camery said the story is more centered on Ben’s character, also named Ben.

“My character kind of has what Ben wants, but my character doesn’t appreciate it,” Camery said. “Ben’s character would do anything to have what I have.”

With only seven days left of their 17-day filming schedule, Camery said they’re on schedule, having shot about 70 pages of the 105-page script. Still, 17 days is pushing it.

“If we could afford to shoot for 40 days, that would be ideal,” he said.

Character actors Stephen Tobolowsky, who plays Ben’s father, and Clint Howard also flew in to shoot scenes.

But housing the cast and crew in Solenberger’s father’s house along Cedar Creek Grade, as well as being familiar with the location of the film, helps a lot.

In a pivotal scene in the film where his character has his first kiss, rain made filming along the Shenandoah River impossible.

“But we had a happy accident happen, that’s what we’re calling it,” Solenberger said. Instead of filming at the river, they redrafted the scene and used an apple orchard.

“What’s more romantic than someone just walking hand in hand in an apple orchard, enjoying each other’s company?” he said. “And we had just a beautiful shot of the first kiss.”

He said filming in Winchester has been nostalgic, not only because he’s been able to revisit the scenes of his childhood at the Snow White Grill, Dinosaur Land and even at his old elementary school.

“There’s just specific scenes that are more heart-wrenching for me,” he said.

But then there’s always a lighthearted moment to draw on from his past.

“I was actually born… my mom went into labor at the [Shenandoah Apple Blossom] festival,” Solenberger remembered. “She had to leave the parade because of me.”

For more information about the film “Guys and Girls Can’t Be Friends,” go to www.facebook.com/guysandgirlscantbefriends.