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Homeward Bound

Whether directing films, writing books or recording tales, Glen Pitre has made his mark as one of south Louisiana's preeminent storytellers. This week, the man who brought us Belizaire the Cajun returns to the big screen with his new film, The S

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It's an overcast Saturday afternoon as Glen Pitre and his wife, Michelle Benoit, discuss their upcoming movie, , over crawfish stew, fried oysters, crab patties and sweet potato fries at Blacky's Restaurant in Lockport Heights. We joke that the south Louisiana hamlet is a "suburb" of Lockport, where most of the movie was filmed. The film is actually set in Pitre's hometown of nearby Cut Off -- two parishes, one hour and a world away from New Orleans.

Indeed, the towns seem to blend into one another along the stretch of Highway 1: Mathews, Lockport, Lockport Heights, Cut Off. "We used to move the (city limits) signs when I was a kid," Pitre says with a grin. They all have a few things in common: the winding Bayou Lafourche on the south side of the highway, the patches of high-grass marsh, the swamps within walking distance, modest homes built a century ago. Only a Wal-Mart can jar the senses into remembering that you're in present-day America.

The 46-year-old Pitre, in his denim jeans and flannel shirt, his full gray mane resting against the rim of his shoulders, is in a typically good mood. It's difficult, in fact, to recall a time when he or his wife have been anything but pleasant company. But on this morning, despite the gray skies and threat of rain, Pitre is especially happy because he has two things on his plate: golden-fried crab patties, and his first feature film in 16 years. He's just returned from Los Angeles -- his and Michelle's third home, counting a house in Lockport and one in Faubourg Marigny -- where he attended a trade show called the American Film Market. Two screenings were well-attended, and his business contacts told him they have secured several overseas distribution outlets.

Pitre obviously enjoys talking about the movie's chances, but as the conversation shifts toward his early years in Cut Off, he warms up even more. His young adult years foreshadow the diversity of his career: He worked as a shrimper with his father, Loulan Sr. (called "Scrap" by the locals), as well as on oil rigs, and he painted houses with a friend of his named Louis King. "We called our company 'P.K.,'" he says, taking the first letters of their last names. "So when people told us who to make the check out to, we said, 'P.K.,' as in 'pique,' which means f--k in French."

Michelle, sitting across the table, shakes her head. "He was a troublemaker as a kid," she says.

Over about an hour, he takes a quick trip up and down the family tree. He has two older brothers, Holland and Wayne, both dermatologists. His younger brother, Loulan Jr., recently won an election to become state representative from the area with the campaign slogan, "He'll be there to peel the shrimp." Michelle, a Lake Charles native, points out it's more than a cute folkism: "It means a lot down here, because you've always got people who will eat the shrimp. But he'll do the dirty work. You know, we always have people come when the shrimp is boiled. But there aren't a lot of people who will peel the shrimp."

His father worked the shrimp boats for 40 years, until he eventually lost his third and final boat and settled into becoming what Glen calls the community "fixer": one part legal adviser, one part Yoda. Luckily, today is Loulan's 81st birthday, and we'll end the afternoon with a trip to Cut Off and a visit with Scrap, who'd earned a reputation not only as someone who likes to "get into it," as Glen says, but is a heckuva storyteller.

"You know how kids sit on their daddy's knee and he says, 'Let me tell you when I was a kid,'" says Michelle, who refers to Loulan as the "Bayou Hellraiser." "Well, Loulan would say, 'Let me tell you about my adventures to the Gobi Desert.' And he would just make up these things."

As we finish our meal, a group enters the restaurant. Glen is instantly recognized. "What's your new movie called?" an older woman asks between complaints about her weight. "," he replies humbly. She smiles before half-admonishing him: "Only you could come up with a title like that." No wonder. She's the mother of Louis King, his former painting partner in their phonetically risque company. Glen grins. Small world.

Still, everyone gushes with praise and wishes of good luck. Another woman in the group is positively beaming at him, cooing in her Cajun drawl: "Awww, I'm sure if you made it it's just going to be goood."

Growing up in Cut Off, Glen Pitre had heard from relatives the stories of German U-boats sinking U.S. ships off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. His father enlisted almost immediately following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor and served four years in the Pacific Theater. "We forget that especially during the first couple years of the war, people expected an attack," Glen says. "Hell, they attacked Pearl Harbor, and that was the United States. They're right off shore. You could hear the explosions, you could see them light up the sky. The question became, when are they going to show up on your doorstep?"

Sounds like a great story, but south Louisiana is full of them, and Pitre has spent his entire professional life trying to bring them to life. He does it in just about every medium imaginable, and he does it with a love and authenticity that is unmistakable, from the tender cinematography of his home landscapes to his fierce attention to detail.

His latest story is his most ambitious: , a love story set against the paranoia and suspicion that gripped his hometown during World War II. The film, co-written by Pitre and Benoit and opening this weekend in local theaters, tells of a romance between a single mother with a dark past who falls in love with a mysterious refugee doctor. For an independently made film, has a decent bit of starpower. Besides Tatum O'Neal (Paper Moon) and former arthouse heartthrob Julian Sands (A Room With a View) as his leads, Pitre snagged the almost iconic Tim Curry (The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Charlie's Angels) as the dubious town priest, and former Party of Five star Lacey Chabert -- a distant relative of Pitre's -- as Camille's restless daughter, Flo. Eion Bailey (Band of Brothers) plays a young Coast Guard ensign pressured to find a suspected collaborator regardless of the consequences. Gonzales native John McConnell and New Orleanian Patrick McCullough round out the cast.

is a classic example of Pitre's exquisite attention to social, cultural and historical detail. For example, unlike in Belizaire the Cajun, which featured Michael Doucet of BeauSoleil, there's no Cajun music -- for a reason. "In the 1940s in Bayou Lafourche, that's not what people were listening to," Pitre says. Instead, in an early dancehall scene, New Orleans' own Don Vappie and the Creole Jazz Serenaders delight the townfolk with standards like "Eh La Bas" and "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It." (The now-defunct Lee Brothers Dance Hall, one of the few set pieces actually in Cut Off, is where Pitre's mother and father fell in love -- an inspired piece of casting if there ever was.)

Casting for Camille wasn't so easy. Pitre says he had some promising early candidates -- including Oscar winner Holly Hunter who eventually turned down the role -- and he was starting to sweat as the film headed into pre-production without the lead. About that time, Pitre learned that Tatum O'Neal, at age 10 the youngest person ever to win an Oscar for her role in 1973's Paper Moon, was attempting a comeback at age 38 and was looking for work.

In some ways, O'Neal was a very risky choice. She hadn't had a starring role in more than a decade, having never successfully made the transition from child to adult actor. She was still overcoming a bitter divorce from her husband, former tennis pro John McEnroe; a subsequent custody battle over their three children; reported substance abuse; and continued estrangement from her father and Paper Moon co-star Ryan O'Neal. She'd long carried a nasty on-set reputation that earned her the nickname "Tantrum O'Neal." But it was the flipside of all that turmoil that intrigued Pitre.

"We had actresses who were 50 telling us they were too young to play a former teen mother," Pitre says, "and the funny thing about Tatum was, she had pretty much been a teen mother! And she understood what it was like being somebody who's talked about as much as Camille is in her hometown. That really clicked for us." Pitre flew to New York with one of the producers, Jerry Daigle, and met with O'Neal. He was immediately impressed with her candor: "She's a woman who has a very low tolerance for B.S." Pitre knew, though, he was rolling the dice with her. When he is asked about that risk, he laughs and responds, "Welcome to my world! It's the movie business. You gotta go with your gut."

Upon viewing the film, O'Neal's performance as Camille is a mixed bag, though she conveys a toughness that some other actresses might not have had. The pain on her face -- her tenacity -- feels quite real. "What she really got, more than was on the page, was how tough this woman had to be," Pitre explains. "To my mind, anybody with six bucks is welcome to their own opinion, but she really comes across as someone who was wounded and put on armor to get through the rest of her life, and when she gets the chance to take off that armor, she doesn't do it so easily. Did it to a T, better than Michelle and I wrote."

That inner toughness was put to the test two weeks into the shoot when O'Neal learned that her father Ryan had been diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia. During the preparation of this article, O'Neal canceled press interviews because her father's condition has worsened and, according to Pitre, she is being considered for a bone marrow transplant. Despite O'Neal's struggles with her father's condition, Pitre, Benoit and the rest of the cast marveled at her work ethic. "All of this stuff was difficult on her, but she'd show up every day and give it her all," says co-producer Michael Arata, who pinch-hit in a small role in the movie. "For all that 'Tantrum O'Neal' stuff, she showed up every day on time, and worked as hard as anyone else on the set and did her job."

More than a chance for a star turn, brims with heart, conveying a love for a land and its people that perhaps only a native could deliver. Pitre works almost exclusively in south Louisiana, and this film provides another reason why -- there's just so much fertile soil here for storytelling. In 100 minutes, Pitre is able to paint glowing visuals of the bayou, explain simple cultural lessons (dancehall courting, shrimping), and tell small historical anecdotes (women going off to New Orleans to work, German POW escapees). is a complex story with complex characters in a complex land. "I like things that are textured and shaded, that are a little bit complicated," Pitre says.

Julian Sands and other cast members became enamored with the area during the shoot. Sands previously starred in Grand Isle, an adaptation of Louisiana writer Kate Chopin's The Awakening, but never actually got to visit the area. So he and Tim Curry made a side trip to Grand Isle, splashing around on the beach and having a little picnic. Sands says he felt a connection between the story and the bayou. "There was a very strong feeling that the places we were filming were real," he recalls, "and that the people who inhabit the area were absolutely of the script. A lot of the people who came to watch were people whose parents were children of the people depicted in the film."

There's a scene midway through the movie where the action grinds to a complete halt as Camile, in a pirogue, floats across the bayou at sunset, the fading light shimmering off the water to create a warm glow. "In Glen's directing, there were a lot of shots where it wasn't clear why were doing them," says Lacy Chabert, a Purvis, Miss., native. "But when you see them, you can tell they help tell the story. We'd go, 'Are you taking a shot of something the actors aren't even in?' But when you see it, you get this 360-degree angle of the area, and it makes you understand the beauty of the area."

Part of the Louisiana environment, of course, is food. Pitre's Cote Blanche production company had partnered with Michael Arata's fledgling production company Circle in the Sky, co-owned by Brennan's magnate Blake Brennan and Acme Oyster House owner Glen Armantrout. This deal subtly helped compensate for that indie-film paycheck: Instead of pasta salads and roast beef po-boys, cast members would sometimes be met after a long day's shoot with bowls of turtle soup and trout Nancy.

"We had an excellent caterer," says Arata, "but there were times when [the Brennan's and Acme deliveries] showed up on the set and the mood lightened tenfold. When the crunch time happened, and we'd go over on a day, [Armantrout] would get a call and say, 'We need to feed the crew and the extras,' and inevitably, they'd show up and not only would the cast and crew and extras and townfolk get fed, they'd get this lavish meal catered by these two New Orleans institutions. They could smell the truck when it got off the Lockport exit."

Dried oyster shells shift and crackle underneath the tires of our cars as we pull up to Lockport Community Arts Guild, one of six buildings along Main Street in old downtown Lockport. This stretch of road, overlooking a three-point bayou intersection, served as production headquarters. Across Bayou Lafourche sits a now-defunct lock that not only gave the town its name but also provided the waterway route to New Orleans. Across the street sits an aging corner building, a former bank that is now the Bayou Lafourche Folklife and Heritage Museum -- with exhibits designed by Glen Pitre and Michelle Benoit. The museum served as one of the scenes in .

"We didn't have to do much to the buildings," Glen recalls. "They had to age them down a little bit." Michelle agrees, adding, "We had an incredible art department." In order to cover up one building's modern-looking tinted windows, the crew used foam core to make the entire structure look like stone. "Total genius," she says. "And they painted some old signs, like Falstaff and 'Loose Lips Sink Ships' (a common wartime refrain)."

Glen and Michelle shot elsewhere in the area, including the Clothilda Plantation, using two houses for Camille's and Dr. Lenz's homes; nearby Gibson for the exterior dancehall scene; the swamps behind Valentine for a POW scene; Lake Salvador for some water scenes; and in Cut Off, where the movie is actually set. But it is here along the bayou intersection where the heart of the film lies.

Glen points down a deserted two-lane stretch of road. "The day before we started shooting ... you see the traffic here, there's no traffic." Michelle repeats his statement, in a pattern that occurs throughout the day, in which one either repeats what the other says, or finishes the other's sentences. When they get excited, they both slip into various levels of their previously unheard Cajun accents.

Glen continues: "It was like bumper to bumper, cars coming through, and every car has a video-camera sticking out of window." Michelle picks it up: "We were doing night scenes, and people would come with their lawn chairs, and we'd move down the street and they'd lug their chairs and go down with us! It was so wonderful. They were cooking for us. Ladies were making pralines because they knew Tim Curry had a sweet tooth. It was really wonderful."

Did a lot of people know who you were? "It's a small bayou, man," Michelle replies. "Everybody knows each other."

Glen Pitre and Michelle Benoit didn't really know each other until just after he'd completed work on Belizaire the Cajun in 1986. As he tells the story of how they met, Glen takes her in his arms in a mock waltz, boasting that he'd swept her off her feet when they were working on a project at the Saenger Theatre. Michelle was the production coordinator for "Evangeline Update," a multimedia project that commemorated the 1929 silent film Evangeline, whose world premiere was at the Saenger. Glen had been hired to shoot a newsreel for the event.

Despite their waltz onstage, they didn't see each other again until four years later, when Michelle called Glen, then president of the Louisiana Film Commission, for the newsreel footage for another showing. "We dated twice, and then we moved in, and then we were married within six months," Glen says, smiling. For their honeymoon, Glen took Michelle with him to the Cannes Film Festival, where he was representing the film commission, and from there they traveled around Europe.

After they married in 1990, Glen wanted to live in Cut Off and Michelle wanted to live in New Orleans, so they forged what they called a compromise and found a bungalow overlooking Highway 1 and the bayou in Lockport. Even the bungalow has a story behind it; when they came to look at the house, they learned that the man who built the house was Glen's great-grandfather, a carpenter. The bungalow was one of the last houses he'd built. Michelle says they were stunned: "And we were like, 'Holy shit! How much do you want for this house? We'll pay anything now!'"

Despite the invasion in recent years of a subdivision along the right side of the property, the bungalow remains a safe haven for the couple ("It's our sanctuary," says Michelle). When asked how the bayou setting inspires him, Glen shows off his den. His desk, topped by his Compaq Presidio laptop, has a view of the highway and the now-sunny bayou, with a tall bush with red camellias off to the left and a birdfeeder on the right. "We've got birdfeeders!" he says, like a kid showing a valued Christmas gift. "It's like the greatest show on Earth. And one day I'll have redwing blackbirds, and cowbirds, and verios and finches. One day this white heron about this tall came walking up."

The bungalow also has served as an incubator for a professional collaboration that has grown over the years. Even before Robert Redford and his little-known Sundance Institute and film festival helped develop Belizaire the Cajun into a minor indie hit, Glen had a wide and varied career telling the stories of south Louisiana. His first claim to fame was the 1976 documentary series chronicling Cajun life, En Bas du Bayou (Down the Bayou), which was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts in conjunction with the "Bicentennial Film" series. He'd done a little of everything after that: freelance photographer for The New York Times and Boston Globe, short films, field recordings of Cajun culture for the Library of Congress, museum consulting, a radio documentary, and much more.

When they married, Glen had been shopping around a script for a movie called Great River that TNT had purchased but later turned down. So for their first project together, Glen suggested turning the script into a novel. "She wasn't so sure," he recalls, "and I said, 'Well, how hard can it be? We'll just throw in a few "he saids" and "she saids."' Well, of course it's not that easy." But they did find it easy to work with each other, building on Great River and working together on a series of projects, including Cajun Country, the 1991 book Glen co-authored with Barry Jean Ancelet and Jay Edwards.

They followed that with a series of documentaries for the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program. The series covered a wide range of topics on the region, from the immigrant cultures of the bayou (1994's Haunted Waters, Fragile Lands) and the erosion of the coastline (1995's Rescuing the Treasure) to regional healing practices (1998's Good for What Ails You) and migratory birds (2001's Wings Over the Wetlands). Glen also busied himself with other projects, including more books, museum work, even hosting an oral-history-style TV show in Cajun French, Bonjour.

With his work, he has established himself as one of the state's most respected and dexterous folklorists and storytellers. "Glen does indeed combine a wonderful set of approaches to tell his stories from a variety of angles," says Ancelet, professor of Folklore at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, who worked with Pitre on Cajun Country and the Library of Congress field recording project. "Is there anyone else like Glen? He would be the first to insist that there are several who are driven by a similar motive, to represent Cajuns and Creoles of Louisiana in scholarly and artistic forums. He certainly does that well and in a variety of media, enhancing his chances of reaching as wide an audience as possible."

Not all of Pitre's projects have spoken to his love of Louisiana. He admits that he took a "money gig" when he directed the straight-to-cable movie Time Served (1999), in which wrongfully convicted murderer Catherine Oxenberg must strip in a seedy nightclub to shorten her prison sentence. This project -- and selling and doctoring various scripts -- helped pay for a rented apartment behind a house in Beverly Hills, as well as the couple's New Orleans home.

Over the years, Glen and Michelle learned how beneficial their collaboration process could be, working together in every way possible: rewriting each other's work, being the other's ghost writer, working in the same room at the keyboard. That collaboration became more intense on . "Writing together is our weird version of couples therapy," says Michelle, "because you have to not be extremely attached to what you write. You have to be willing to take criticism. You gotta be willing to let go of it. And you have to be really clear about who you are, and it's not about who made breakfast this morning. It's a clarification, it really is." Glen cuts in: "And if you don't want to let something go, you have to be able to articulate why. You have to say, 'This is important because ... ."

That process was especially crucial in the metamorphosis of , which originally was The Scoundrel's Daughter and featured a love triangle with a deck hand. At the last second, they decided to add a flashback sequence regarding smuggling that fully illustrates the reason why Camille had become a pariah of the community. "That was probably the biggest thing," Michelle notes, "because we decided we needed that dramatic oomph of seeing that it happened."

Having a wife for his co-writer helped Glen on several levels with the film, but particularly when fast changes need to be made. On the last day at one location, O'Neal learned about her father's illness right before two key scenes were to be shot. The scenes were cut, and Michelle had to come through in the clutch.

"That's one of the advantages of having a writer on the set," she says, "and Glen and I being able to work so well under pressure, and both knowing the material, is that we'd know there would be times where we'd come back at night and he would be like, 'OK, Michelle' -- and he'd be more exhausted than I was -- 'rewrite this for tomorrow. Figure out how.'"

Having Michelle available also came in handy during a scene in which Camille tries to break up the romance between her daughter, Flo (Chabert) and the Coast Guard Ensign Burwell (Bailey) by sending Flo off to work in New Orleans. At first, it felt like a real scene-chewer between the two actresses, but in working with Chabert, Michelle decided to tone it down. "I didn't think it was appropriate ... for us to have a screaming match with the bratty teen and the oppressive mother," says Chabert. "Michelle was very open to suggestions, and we worked together to make the scene more subtle. Sometimes I think there's more power when there's fewer words."

Other times, the cast would get creative and try to play the two off each other. "If they would disagree with me, they were looking for ammunition, and they'd go see her," Glen says, laughing.

The skies that had cleared up just in time for us to go talk inside their bungalow are starting to cloud up again as we pile back into Glen's Plymouth for the 20-minute drive down Highway 1 and across the Intercoastal Canal, which had replaced the old canal we'd seen in old downtown Lockport, and into Cut Off to visit with Loulan Pitre Sr. The man that everyone knows as "Scrap" is celebrating his 81st birthday, and Glen wants to drop off some gifts -- one of the rubber prop rifles he'd kept from and a videotape of the Paul Steckler documentary George Wallace: Settin' the Woods on Fire. As Glen drives, he and Michelle continue to tell stories of the area, pointing to familiar points of interest: a patriotic neighbor with a faux Eiffel Tower and a Statue of Liberty in his lawn; his brother Loulan's office, which once was his grandmother's house.

Like the property of most Cajuns in the area, the Pitre family plot is a long stretch of land that starts at the bayou and reaches back toward the swamp. Family members inherit the sub-plots of relatives over the years. Loulan Sr. and his wife, Emelia, live in a modest one-story house with a tiny carport just a few houses off the road tucked between several other relatives' houses. Before we pull up, I ask the couple why now, only this afternoon, I've heard them slip into their Cajun accents for the very first time.

Michelle takes her cue and lays it on thick: "Butchoo on da bayou, you gotta tawlk like da natives aw you can't get anything done! You don't go into the grocery story and say, 'Where is the Kleenex?' You say, 'The Kleenex, where it's at?'" "It's not conscious," Glen says. "It's not conscious," Michelle repeats. "No, I'm serious, it's being on the bayou. And all it takes is for me to talk to Glen's daddy, and all of a sudden I can start getting more Cajun and you get your broader syllables."

We're greeted at the door by Loulan and Emelia, who is all smiles as she dotes on her son. Loulan's getting over a cough of some kind, and says he isn't feeling well, but is well enough to offer an update on the progress of his latest passion: gardening. "I planted some sugar snaps, and they already shot up, three days mind you, this high," says the retired shrimper, in an accent that makes the word "high" sound like he's swallowing it. It's the same voice that underscored Loulan's naturalistic performance in Belizaire the Cajun. In the movie, he plays a sheriff who is shrewd enough to save his own skin while dealing with the conflicting agendas of the Cajun French settlers and the vigilantes who want them removed from south Louisiana.

After birthday cake and chicory coffee thick enough to hold a spoon upright, Loulan regales us with stories about working for Richard Nixon's reelection and then being so mad that he was only half-heartedly invited to the inauguration that he'd wished the man would get impeached. His eyes sparkle with each story; everyone's laughing and wondering how far the truth is being stretched. He anticipates the suspicion. "Everything I said here, I'll challenge these people to prove me wrong," Loulan says, brushing wisps of gray hair back with his hands. "All of 'em. Now there's a new generation, y'know. They think I'm makin' these stories up. I believe there's a lot of good stories out -- totally unbelievable."

When asked how he developed the sheriff's character in Belizaire, Loulan replies, "I knew what the mentality of the sheriff in those days must've been. It's not really to antagonize anyone but to let the society itself survive, you had to be that way. But with most of these other actors, the posse that wanted to shoot 'em up and all, I thought it would be nice to have a little realism in there. But that's the way it happened."

When asked about his son's work as a director, he pauses while his wife admonishes him: "Remember, he's your son." "That won't change matters any," Loulan responds, as Glen cracks up and waits for his father's verdict. Without giving away the plot, Loulan says he wanted more scenes like the one about smuggling that, just an hour earlier, Glen and Michelle said they added in at the last second. More scenes like that one would have provided more realism to the story, he says. "He shoulda done that a little more, because that was widespread," Loulan insists. "Prohibition coulda worked up (more) into his movie. He coulda used Prohibition more." Glen shakes his head. Michelle grins: "Everybody's a critic."

His mother recalls Glen's first acting experience, when he was 5 years old. "He was in the Cub Scouts and I was a den mother, and I had the Cub Scouts, y'know," she says. "And his older brothers were in the Scouts. And he was the mascot. And they would have this skit every month."

"I didn't know that," Glen pipes up.

"You don't remember?" she asks. "And Glen was in that one skit. He had this big guitar, about as big as he was, and he was strumming that guitar, and of course he didn't know to play that thing. And the audience thought it was so cute, they started laughing. But they weren't laughing at him. But he stopped them, and said, 'Y'all laughing too much!' He always liked that kind of stuff."

Loulan finishes the visit off with a story from the set of Belizaire. Seems they had prisoners from the local jail on hand for work detail, and Loulan became their unofficial foreman. The deputies were puzzled as to why the prisoners enjoyed working on the set so much, he says. The reason: Loulan would sneak them a beer or two at the end of the day. "I wouldn't brag about this, but if there's one thing I can learn to manage it's people," he says. "I had them eating out of the palm of my hand." Glen corrects him: "Yeah, right. It's more like drinking out of the palm of your hand."

It's getting dark, and time to make the drive back to Lockport. We say our goodbyes, and get into the car just as a light rain starts to fall. The talk turns to Loulan's storytelling ability. "It's like I said before," Michelle says. "He'd say, 'Sit down and let me tell you about my travels to the Gobi Desert.' I mean, what kind of bullshit is that?" She laughs. "That's how he would lure his kids to sit down and be quiet, and listen to him tell his stories."

Considering an afternoon bloated with stories from generations young and old, it seems only natural to ask Glen why he's focused all his major work in south Louisiana and not elsewhere. He's reminiscent of fellow filmmaker Victor Nunez (Ruby in Paradise, Ulee's Gold), who prefers to keep his stories around the north Florida area surrounding his hometown of Tallahassee.

"Well, I mean, there is a lot of material here, that's one," he begins, for the moment forgetting to turn on the windshield wipers. "It's home. It's a part of the world I feel comfortable in. But there's also a real key sense that the lore is changing fast, and disappearing fast. Faster than most places because it lasted longer here. It was primarily an oral culture. They were preserving the native storytelling tradition as opposed to taking it passively from the radio and TV for a couple of generations after the English-speaking areas just started taking it.

"There's sort of a last chance to hang onto things that we're not going to see or hear again," he continues. "There's just so much stuff out there, and it's a shame to see it go. It's the cultural equivalent of watching the coastline wash away." With a nudge from Michelle, he finally kicks on the wipers to fight off the raindrops and see the road ahead to Lockport, contemplating his final thought:

"And stories, you take one bite at a time."

Photo by Isabella Vosmikova, courtesy of Glen Pitre
  • Photo by Isabella Vosmikova, courtesy of Glen Pitre
With help from Robert Redford and his little-known  Institute and film festival, Pitre's Belizaire the Cajun became a minor indie hit in 1986. - GLEN PITRE
  • Glen Pitre
  • With help from Robert Redford and his little-known Institute and film festival, Pitre's Belizaire the Cajun became a minor indie hit in 1986.
cover_story-3016.jpeg
Pitre says Tatum O'Neal brings a toughness to her performance as Camille that some other actresses might not have had. 'What she really got, more than was on the page, was how tough this woman had to be,' he says. - GLEN PITRE
  • Glen Pitre
  • Pitre says Tatum O'Neal brings a toughness to her performance as Camille that some other actresses might not have had. 'What she really got, more than was on the page, was how tough this woman had to be,' he says.
Family ties:  Pitre cast distant relative and former Party of Five star, Lacey Chabert as Flo.
  • Family ties: Pitre cast distant relative and former Party of Five star, Lacey Chabert as Flo.
Pitre decided to shoot a dance sequence inside the old Lee Brothers Dance Hall in Cut Off, where his mother and father fell in love. - GLEN PITRE
  • Glen Pitre
  • Pitre decided to shoot a dance sequence inside the old Lee Brothers Dance Hall in Cut Off, where his mother and father fell in love.

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