Did You Get to Eat a Lot of Candy?

Did You Get to Eat a Lot of Candy?

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The Snowtown Film Festival kicked off with a morning screening of the 1971 film, Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory adapted from the children’s book by Roald Dahl.  The iconic movie, which had only a lukewarm reception upon its initial release, is one of Gene Wilder’s most famous roles. It also starred Peter Ostrum as Charlie, the lucky boy who gets the last golden ticket. Child actor Peter Ostrum happens to be a Northern New York resident, who as an adult has lived most of his life in Lewis County practicing veterinary science. The screening of the film was followed by a Q & A with Mr. Ostrum.

Mr. Ostrum explained that the popularity and critical acclaim of the film didn’t come about until the onset of VHS, DVD’s and repeated television broadcasts. It has become part of the canon of children’s films like The Wizard of Oz and Mary Poppins. As Mr. Ostrum said, “Now you cannot kill the damn thing.”

Because so many children have seen the film and love it, they were naturally excited to talk to “Charlie.”

“Did you have to go to school?"

All the children on the set had to have a tutor and the school sessions and learning had to total three hours a day.  There was a classroom set up on the set, and increments of learning could be as short as fifteen minutes.

“Did you get to eat a lot of candy while filming the movie?”

Yes, we did, but the chocolate waterfall wasn’t real chocolate.

“How did you get involved in wanting to be an actor?”

I was taken to the theater at a young age and loved it.  There was a theater in Ohio where I grew up that had Saturday morning classes for children.  I started attending them and really loved it.

“Do you get a kickback from the film?” (Yes a child actually asked this question.)

Mr. Ostrum remarked that yes, every three or four months he gets a residual check worth about $8.00!

“Do you have advice for kids that might want to get into movie, how do you talk your parents into it?”

Mr. Ostrum said Parents should encourage children to pursue what they want to do. If you love your work you will be happy, but also if you decide to change your passion that should be embraced as well. This is something Ostrum can speak of since he gave up acting to become a veterinarian. There has been a lot of speculation about why Ostrum gave up acting and why he has been reticent to discuss his career or involvement in the iconic movie.  Much unnecessary mystery has been whipped up about this. Contrary to popular belief Mr. Ostrum has pleasant memories of working on the film and is still in contact with all of the child actors who played opposite and some of the elderly crew members. He is happy to share his stories, but clearly the film and his career of a child actor doesn’t define him completely, since he has done so much good work in the community since then.

The Snowtown Film Festival is Watertown’s only film festival and is a great celebration of film over a two day period, with screenings all day on the second day (Saturday). Their short film screenings are quite impressive; Kudos to the committee for bringing this festival to cinephiles in the bleak of winter!

7news Fox 28 was a proud sponsor of the Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory Screening and the film Festival!

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