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    Sunday, May 19, 2024

    Filmmaker Andrew Gernhard to receive Norwich Native Son Award

    Andrew Gernhard at a recent Comicon convention. Photo courtesy of Andrew Gernhard.

    Norwich ― Andrew Gernhard has never lived far from his native Norwich roots, even as his career as a successful filmmaker took him to points across the globe, including spending the winter in Finland and Iceland.

    Gernhard was in Iceland this week, when Jan Sauvageau, president of the Norwich Woman’s City Club, called to congratulate him on being selected as the 2024 Norwich Native Son Award recipient.

    The award is given annually by the Norwich Rotary clubs and the Woman’s City Club to a person who grew up and was educated in Norwich and went on to excel in a career outside the region.

    “I was excited for sure,” Gernhard said Thursday.

    Gernhard, 47, said he was honored to be selected for the award and credited his hometown and Norwich Free Academy education for getting him started in his career. He follows 2023 Native Son recipient, best-selling author Wally Lamb, Gernhard’s English teacher at NFA.

    Gernhard and Lamb collaborated to create the film version of Lamb’s Christmas book, “Wishin’ & Hopin’” set partly at NFA and other locations in southeastern Connecticut. The film airs on the Lifetime TV network at Christmastime.

    Gernhard, a 1995 NFA graduate, established his Synthetic Cinema International film company in 2004 in Rocky Hill. He has produced more than 100 films, ranging from horror to Christmas themes, many set in the local area. Familiar locations, such as Norwich City Hall, NFA, downtown Mystic and Norwich and the Wauregan Hotel have appeared in his films.

    His last local Hallmark movie, “Mystic Christmas,” aired on Hallmark last year.

    “All the Hallmark fans thought it was shot in Canada,” he said.

    For now, Gernhard said, “I’m done with winter,” having spent the past three months in Finland and Iceland, filming two movies, one called “Finnish Line” about a dog race in Finland, and the second, “The Christmas Quest,” announced in a news release by Hallmark on Wednesday, in Iceland.

    “The Christmas Quest” will feature Hallmark stars Lacey Chabert and Kristoffer Polaha, and Gernhard described it as “an Indiana Jones-type adventure,” set at Christmas.

    Gernhard grew up on Sturtevant Avenue near the former William A. Buckingham School. He was raised by his mother, Elizabeth Gernhard, who worked at Norwich Federal Credit Union, his grandmother, Bernice Brown, a stenographer for Norwich courts, and his great aunt.

    At NFA, he focused on the arts, delving in painting, sculpture, graphic design and screen printing. After graduating from NFA, Gernhard earned a degree in communication/television production at Southern Connecticut State University, with a minor in graphic design.

    He has lived all over Connecticut, including in New Haven, Hartford, Bristol and Rocky Hill. He said he was living on a golf course in Rocky Hill, when he and his fiancée, Christy O’Connor, decided they needed to find a house.

    They moved to their home in Gales Ferry in 2018 and live there with daughters, Violet, 5, and Winter, 2, and their two dogs.

    Gernhard promised to be home and in attendance when he is honored at the annual Native Son/Daughter luncheon at noon June 5 at the Holiday Inn in Norwich. Tickets are $40 per person and are available online at Norwwichrotaryevents.org.

    For information, contact event organizer Mary Richardson at mrichardson@burnettslandscaping.com.

    c.bessette@theday.com

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