By Mike LaBella
---- — You may have stopped by for coffee or a meal, or simply passed by on your way elsewhere.
But you probably didn’t know the counter where you sipped coffee or the table where you sat was part of the setting for a movie scene.
The popular breakfast and lunch nook Raff’s Cafe has been featured in coffee shop scenes in two recent independent films.
Mary Rafferty, owner of Raff’s Lunch & Breakfast Cafe at 620 Primrose St., was thrilled when a local movie director asked to use her restaurant in his films.
John Depew of Haverhill was a customer when Rafferty opened the shop four years ago.
”He was having breakfast and told me he’d filmed here with the previous owner and that he would like to film here again,” she said.
Rafferty liked the idea and they arranged for filming after business hours.
”They did everything to set up for the scenes, including moving tables, but they put everything back in its place before they left,” she said.
Depew said Raff’s was perfect for filming scenes at the counter and at a table.
”It’s large enough and can pass for a diner,” he said. And aestheically it looks great.”
Depew, 65, a filmmaker, actor and writer, has made three independent films in the last several years with his wife, Judy Coleman, who produces their movies under their company, Wild Beagle Productions.
”Judy was awesome to work with,” Rafferty said.
Shooting took place in various locations in the Haverhill and Lawrence areas, including at Raff’s cafe.
”She’s a wonderful gal and very accommodating,” Depew said about Rafferty.
Depew’s first film, titled “27 Down,’’ is a police drama filmed two years ago in Haverhill and Lawrence at locations including Raff’s, the Lawrence Police Station and a Shell gas station on Route 125 in North Andover.
Rafferty was allowed to watch some of the shooting at her restaurant and recalls the film crew went around unplugging appliances that could interfere with the audio recording, such as a refrigerator that might make noise when cycling on and off.
In “27 Down,’’ a mystery thriller co-written by Depew, a Boston police detective gets embroiled in a tense investigation. On his way to his new job in a fictional town in Maine, the character stops at a gas station. With the cameras running, real life suddenly got in the way of the film.
”We were shooting a scene where the main character interrupts a young man trying to rob the store, when North Andover police showed up with their guns drawn,” Depew said. “They thought it was an actual robbery taking place. Police came in and ordered the two actors to the floor.”
In a scene filmed at Raff’s, two characters are at the counter having lunch. In another scene there, two characters are having a conversation at a table.
”I waited through the whole movie to see my cafe,” Rafferty said.
Depew was also looking for a place to film a scene where a detective is having a phone conversation with the mother of a young man who was killed in a hit-and-run accident.
”We used Chief John Romero’s office at the Lawrence Police station to film,” Depew said of that scene.
In his second film, “CO2,’’ a suspense adventure, a mysterious deadly vapor suffocates a small American coal town. Depew’s movie was based on various actual events, including the Lake Nyos, Cameroon, CO2 disaster in 1986. In that incident, 1,700 people died in their sleep from a cloud of CO2 gas resulting from a natural eruption of the gas.
”Our story takes place in a small community in a valley, and Raff’s was one of the places where we shot a flashback scene between characters,” Depew said. “In the flashback scene, filmed at the counter, the lead woman is talking to her boss over lunch and he’s basically a slime ball and is telling her to use her relationship with a young scientist to get him to give the go-ahead to start digging for oil.”
Depew’s latest film, “The Final Shift,’’ is a science fiction mystery about an aging hit man and a beautiful young assassin. The movie, which features Hollywood actor Robert Miano, was released last June. Filming locations included Al’s Place restaurant on Primrose Street, which was closed at the time.
”I needed a restaurant that was closed as we needed to shoot eight hours a day,” Depew said. “The building was being transferred to a new owner and we had to negotiate between both parties.
”The funny thing about it was everything shot inside the restaurant was shot at that location,” he said. “But, shooting outside was at the Haverhill Country Club at the pool,’’ he said. “Haverhill is such a big city and has so much to offer. There are so many places to shoot.”
Raffery said she’d be happy to have her cafe used in another of Depew’s movies.
”He still comes in for breakfast,” she said.
Veteran writer and artist Steve Hrehovcik of Kennebunk, Maine, cowrote the film “27 Down’’ with Depew. In 2011, Hrehovcik created a sketch of what the Woolworth building in downtown Haverhill could look like if became a comic book hall of fame.
His son Josh Hrehovcik said at the time that such a venue would attract tourists to Haverhill. Josh Hrehovcik appeared in the movie, “The Final Shift.’’
Trailers of Depew’s films can be seen online at www.wildbeagleproductions.com and are available for streaming or downloading at www.twistflix.com.