‘Familiar Strangers’ brings familiar faces back home for the holidays

It may never again get to sit in the director’s chair during filming of a motion picture, so I owe Barry Sisson big time.
The movie is “Familiar Strangers,” though I didn’t know that two falls ago when Sisson, the executive producer of “Familiar Strangers,” gave me the big chair for a half-hour during filming on location in Augusta County. I think I remember hearing the title last year when Sisson’s Cavalier Films did a test screening of the picture, which stars DJ Qualls, Shawn Hatosy, Tom Bower, Ann Dowd, Cameron Richardson and Nikki Reed, at The Visulite in Downtown Staunton.

The film’s long odyssey from idea stage to the big screen is just about complete as the finished version comes back to The Visulite for a run beginning Friday.

Sisson admits that he’ll have a hard time enjoying the show, as it were. “I tend to not watch the movie now, because it’s my baby, and it’s now coming to life and taking its first steps out into the world. I don’t want my nervous energy to affect the people around me,” Sisson said. “What I watch, and what I am fascinated by, is the reactions that people are having to the movie. I want to talk to people as they’re coming out of the movie when they don’t know that I’m the producer and hear what they’re saying.”

I can say from the test screening that the movie, directed by Zackary Adler, is definitely worth seeing. “Familiar Strangers” is a portrait of a family dealing with the difficult transition that comes to every family when children become adults and have to almost relearn how to relate to each other and to their parents, who themselves can have issues relearning how to deal with their adult children.

The setting is Thanksgiving, but Sisson said “Familiar Strangers” “really transcends Thanksgiving.” “It’s a universal theme. It looks at interrelationships within a family and how difficult those can be and how important those relationships are from the universal view of things,” Sisson said.

The debut here around the holidays has Sisson and his crew back in Staunton at a good time nonetheless. “Being back in Staunton is just fabulous. We get a reception as if we’re coming home for the holidays,” Sisson said.


Story by Chris Graham

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The book, with additional reporting by Zach Pereles, Scott Ratcliffe and Scott German, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018, and how coach Tony Bennett and his team used that loss as the source of strength, through to the ACC regular-season championship, the run to the Final Four, and the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.
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