Flick Chick | Film | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Published July 17, 2002 at 4:00 a.m.

In cinematic terms, Loranne Turgeon’s fade-out is scheduled for the beginning of September, but the lead has already been cast in the sequel to her term as executive director of the Vermont Film Commission: Out of 135 people auditioning for the role, Danis Regal was selected. And, luckily for the state’s future as a movie set, she’s a show-business trouper with ties to the industry.

“I’ve worked in Hollywood for almost 20 years,” Regal explains during a telephone interview from Los Angeles. “So my connections are all in place.”

An Antioch graduate with an MFA in film production from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Regal has forged associations with such well-established directors as John Sayles, Arthur Hiller and Lawrence Kasdan. She made her mark at a range of studios: Universal, 20th Century Fox, TriStar, MGM and Columbia.

The Montpelier-based job was not necessarily a shoo-in for Regal, even though she and Turgeon have known each other for a decade. They first met in 1991 while both were employed on In the Line of Fire, a political thriller with Clint Eastwood playing a weathered Secret Service agent.

“Danis was following the real presidential candidates around the country with the unit that had to get footage of motorcades, crowds at rallies and Air Force One,” recalls Turgeon, who worked as an assistant to the producer.

When a friend told Regal about the Vermont position, it seemed like the right opportunity at the right time. “I’ve been trying to simplify my life and stay off the freeways,” she quips. “I like the fact that it’s a progressive state, with such a wealth of culture.”

Turgeon’s primary reason for leaving the post is her desire “to get back to making movies,” she says. “I’ll spend the next year looking for scripts, going back to the West Coast to renew my contacts, and being with my boyfriend in Maine.”

As commission director for almost five years, she feels that “I gave it my all, 200 percent, but now it’s time for a fresh, new person who can take it to the next level.”

During Turgeon’s tenure in the late 1990s Me, Myself and Irene, What Lies Beneath and a few scenes from The Cider House Rules — all major motion pictures — landed in Vermont. Although there’s been a dry spell since then, she mentions that a few strong possibilities are in the pipeline at the moment.

Regal suggests that the commission might be able to bring prosperity this way by “making a big push for commercials. That could become the state’s bread and butter. I can envision a Lexus rolling through the hills, with no billboards and clear skies.”

She may be a dreamer, but Regal sees her forthcoming role through a pragmatic lens. “It is economic development,” she points out.

Unfortunately, that means going toe-to-toe with Canada, where U.S. production companies enjoy tax incentives and a beneficial exchange rate on the American dollar. “If they want Boston, they go to Toronto,” Regal says. “If they want New York, they go to Toronto. But you know what? For Vermont, there’s no Toronto.”

Perhaps, but there is Eastern Europe, another cheap thrill for moviemakers. “We have to encourage them not to go to Romania if they want mountains or snow,” Regal explains.

The Cleveland native’s loyalty to Vermont took root during the summers she spent as a pre-teen at the former Camp Neshobe near Poultney. Another kind of camp — Gone to the Dogs, in Putney — has gilded her return to New England. “I’ve got a blonde Bouvier named Parma who I took to a dog camp in Tahoe last year,” Regal says. “That was fun for both of us, so I’d like to try Putney.”

When not romping with Parma, Regal bakes — a new skill — and plays piano. She even bought a baby grand, which has already arrived in Vermont; Regal herself isn’t due here until next month. These diversions are extra credits for a woman who says she has been immersed in film to the exclusion of almost everything else. She was thrilled to find the Tahoe camp so canine-conscious that “it’s the first place I’ve ever gone where nobody asked me what I do for a living.”

Come September, she’ll have a new answer to that question.