A workplace from hell: Amherst filmmaker Matt Heron-Duranti is part of the team behind independent film “Another Day in America”

Natasha Henstridge, who’s appeared in films such as “The Whole Nine Yards” and TV series like “Commander in Chief,” is one of the leads in the independent film “Another Day in America.”

Natasha Henstridge, who’s appeared in films such as “The Whole Nine Yards” and TV series like “Commander in Chief,” is one of the leads in the independent film “Another Day in America.” Image courtesy Matt Heron-Duranti

Another problem at the toxic office that employees inhabit in “Another Day in America”: the windows won’t open.

Another problem at the toxic office that employees inhabit in “Another Day in America”: the windows won’t open. Image courtesy Matt Heron-Duranti

Alexis Knapp, who’s appeared in the “Pitch Perfect” series of films, is seen here in the independent film “Another Day in America.”

Alexis Knapp, who’s appeared in the “Pitch Perfect” series of films, is seen here in the independent film “Another Day in America.” Image courtesy Matt Heron-Duranti

Amherst filmmaker and producer Matt Heron-Duranti is a co-producer and editor of the film “Another Day in America.”

Amherst filmmaker and producer Matt Heron-Duranti is a co-producer and editor of the film “Another Day in America.” Courtesy Matt Heron-Duranti

By STEVE PFARRER

Staff Writer

Published: 04-01-2024 11:46 AM

There’s been a lot written about the problems that have plagued many American workplaces in the wake of the pandemic, from employees insisting on continuing to work from home to offices that have mirrored the polarization and social conflicts plaguing U.S. society in general.

A new independent film that tackles those issues will screen at the Boston International Film Festival next month — and Amherst-based filmmaker Matt Heron-Duranti had a key hand in producing and editing the movie.

“Another Day in America,” written and directed by Emilio Mauro, made its screen debut in early March in California. A shorthand description of the film bills it as “a dark, radical comedy-drama that revolves around an ensemble of distinct characters as they each make their way through a post-pandemic day in an American office.”

Heron-Duranti is an Amherst native — he graduated from Amherst Regional High School in 2005 — who still spends part of his time in town but travels regularly to other parts of the country for his work, which includes producing music videos, commercial work for companies, and other projects. (His family also owns Sibies Pizza in South Amherst). 

In a recent phone call from a job in Florida, he said he was working on a music video in New Hampshire in the fall of 2022 when he learned that Mauro, a Boston-area filmmaker, was looking for a producer for “Another Day in America.”

“I met Emilio and we really clicked, and he had the funds in hand to make [the film] happen,” said Heron-Duranti. “I was definitely interested in being part of it.”

The film was shot on a tight schedule in Woburn and parts of Boston in December 2022 and January 2023, and Heron-Duranti says he ended up doing much of the editing of the film after the initial “rough cut” was finished, as well as some other post-production work, through 2023.

The movie “is kind of a time capsule,” he explained, saying it doesn’t take place in a specific locale or time. Its goal, he said, is to examine the kind of polarization, antisocial behavior and tension that seemed to grow during the pandemic from people being stuck at home and expressing their unhappiness online.

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“It looks at how that kind of divisiveness and existing problems that were already out there were aggravated by the pandemic, and how that stuff came back into a lot of workplaces afterward,” Heron-Duranti said.

The movie has a cast of about 24, with a focus on six to eight main characters. They work in an insurance business and find themselves navigating, as preview notes put it, a mix of “cultural guerrilla warfare ... the pains of disenfranchisement, misogyny, racism, perversion, and mental illness … fueled by our dependence on online internet culture.”

That might make “Another Day in America” sound like grim tidings, but Heron-Duranti says the film offers plenty of mordant humor.

“When we screened it in California, there were more laughs than we expected,” he said. “There’s some raunchy dialogue … it definitely lives in a dark comedy world.”

A trailer for the film shows a handful of disgruntled workers, in their 20s to 40s, having a meeting to discuss unspecified assignments. Right away conflict flares between a young woman, Nadia Carter (Raquel Castro), and Anthony Carlo (Damien Di Paola), playing an older company manager or supervisor, over an all-too-familiar subject: Nadia is wearing a face mask.

“Nadia, you really need to wear that?” says Anthony.

“Well, I’m immune-compromised, I could die, so yeah, I do,” says Nadia.

“Well, let’s hope you don’t die!” says Anthony.

“Are you mocking me?” responds Nadia, looking daggers at Anthony.

Heron-Duranti says the cast includes younger and part-time actors, primarily from the Boston area, as well as several more experienced names from Los Angeles, such as Alexis Knapp (from the “Pitch Perfect” series of films), Natasha Henstridge (“The Whole Nine Yards”), and Ritchie Coster (from the “Tulsa King” TV series).

Di Paola, Heron-Duranti notes, once lived in the Valley and opened the former Carmelina’s restaurant (now Alina’s) in Hadley. Now living in Boston, Di Paola has appeared in movies such as “Chappaquiddick,” “Joy,” and “American Hustle.”

Mauro has written screenplays for a number of other films, including the 2014 Boston gangster film “By the Gun.” Heron-Duranti says Mauro based “Another Day in America” on some of his past experiences working in the financial district in New York.

Heron-Duranti, formerly an executive member of Amherst Media, is also known for a documentary he made a little over 10 years ago, “Homeless in a College Town,” that he filmed and produced with his partner, Sari Gagnon, in and around Amherst.

In addition, the two worked with an Easthampton sculptor to create a giant metal cow, known as Hope, that’s used for collecting donations for Craig’s Door, Amherst’s homeless shelter; Hope has been located for several years in Kendrick Park.

He’s hoping “Another Day in America” can find some additional venues after the Boston festival: “I think it’s a really timely movie.”

“Another Day in America” plays April 14 at 6 p.m at the Boston International Film Festival, which runs April 11-16. Tickets can be purchased at bostoniff.com.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.