Local Filmmakers Gear Up To Make a Maine Waterfront Film This Spring
Not since In The Bedroom has there been a community-wide flutter of excitement knowing an independent film company is coming to town to film a movie. Only, in this case, these guys didn’t have to fly in from Hollywood. They’ve been living here, working here, sharing a beer at local watering holes all along.
Anatomy of the Tide is a feature film by Midcoast Maine writer/director/producer, Joel B. Strunk whom the Academy of Motion Picture, Arts and Sciences honored with a Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting Award.
Strunk is a tuna fisherman who fishes out of Rockland and has worked in and among Maine’s waterfronts all of his life. His script Anatomy of the Tide placed in the top 30 out of 6,500 scripts for the Nicholl Fellowships this past year, a notable feat in itself. It is a coming-of-age story about three island boys in their final summer of adolescence, who look beyond an ocean that has incarcerated them since birth to plot their hopes and dreams. Dark secrets, fearful parents, and wealthy seasonal influences all combine to make this story a recipe of tragedy and triumph.
The production budget for this independent film is about $1 million, similar in budget to In The Bedroom. Anatomy of the Tide will be shot and produced here in Midcoast Maine and surrounding islands by Two Tides Entertainment and its production team. When all the necessary funding is in place, the goal is to start pre-production in the spring and shoot for five weeks in July and August.
As with every film project, there is always a good back story. One day a few years ago, Strunk was listening to a record album his late father had made. Judd Strunk was a high-profile musician in Los Angeles in the 1960s-1970s who knew a lot of entertainers in the industry. Feeling nostalgic about his father as he listened to his music, Joel Strunk turned the album cover over to see who produced it and found a name he didn’t recognize: Charles Kipps. “When people you love pass away,” says Joel Strunk, “you always try to find living pieces of them in other people.” On a whim, Joel Strunk called up Kipps in L.A. and left him a message that he was Judd Strunk’s son—and—if that meant anything to him, he’d love to have a conversation. Kipps immediately called him back and a connection between the two immediately formed. Kipps, a former Motown record producer, who’d made seven gold albums with Aretha Franklin and The Temptations, also happened to be a film producer whose credits included Fat Albert, a feature film for Twentieth Century Fox co-written with Bill Cosby, and Frame of Mind. Kipps asked to see the Anatomy of the Tide script and after reading it, offered to sign on as the film’s lead producer. “Charles doesn’t do anyone a favor if he doesn’t like a script; but in this case, he loved it,” says Joel Strunk. “He told me: ‘Stop focusing on agents and selling your script. Do it yourself. You raise the money—I’ll give you the talent.’ ” Tom Craig, a former senior V.P. of Universal Pictures and United Artists that helped green light such films as Shakespeare in Love, Prince of Tides, and Rain Man, got ahold of the script next through his Maine connections and became the next producer to attach to the film.
Now they had to find a cinematographer. In 2006, Strunk met Daniel Stephens, an award-winning cinematographer who was teaching a lighting cinematography class at Maine Media Workshops. Stephens had come to the Workshops in 2002 and loved his experience so much, decided to make Maine his home. He currently works as a cinematographer and partner in the Maine-based production company goodfocus, llc. After Strunk and Stephens collaborated on making a commercial together, Strunk asked Stephens to be his Director of Photography on Anatomy of the Tide. And with most of the necessary pieces in place, they were ready to go to the next level.
Just like In The Bedroom and Islander, what’s exciting about this particular film is that it will be actually shot in Maine. If this sounds like an obvious thing to say—it isn’t. According to Stephens, many production companies don’t actually come to Maine to shoot Maine films because Maine, unlike other states, is perceived as not being very film-friendly. Take Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey as well as Canadian provinces—they all give a 25%- 60% tax credit incentive for filmmakers. That means for a $1 million movie, anywhere from 1/3 to over 1/2 of the film's qualified expenses can be reimbursed to the production company in the form of a tax credit. Maine only reimburses up to 12% of wages paid to Maine residents and 5% of other qualified expenses—which is why from a business standpoint, a production company has more incentive to film in Massachusetts or Canada. “A lot of times, they’ll say the Canadian coast looks a lot like Maine and assume most people won’t tell the difference,” says Stephens. Another obstacle is that there aren’t a lot of production facilities in Maine, although that’s starting to change in Portland. Still, that adds up to additional expenses when the cast and equipment has to be trucked in from away. “While [out-of-state film production companies] are infusing some cash into the Maine economy, at the end of the day,” says Stephens, “most of those people they are paying are from somewhere else.”
That’s why this Maine waterfront movie is getting so much local support. Written by a Maine fisherman—and underwritten, to a large degree, by hard-working Maine people: doctors, lobstermen, boat builders, trap manufacturers, fishing fleet operators, aviation professionals, and other waterfront folks and businesses--Anatomy of the Tide plans to be giving as much as it gets from the state it proudly represents. Says Lea Girardin, Director of The Maine Film Office, “I think very, very highly of these guys. It’s a wonderful project; it’s a terrific script. It’s the kind of project I will obviously do everything in my power to help out and I’ll make the same commitment to them as they are making to Maine.”
“Almost everyone who works in this film (with the exception of some of the lead cast) will be from Maine,” says Stephens. “The crew and cast will be from here and we have some amazing crew resources.” Local lobsterman Ryan Post, a vocal proponent of the Maine lobster industry, is also a producer of the film. Because of Post’s strong relationships with the waterfront community in which he was born and raised, he has access to the kind of people, locations and resources in Maine most production companies would never be able to approach without some kind of “ambassador” to the area.
Most of the scenes will be shot in Rockland and potentially, North Haven or Vinalhaven. “We may not have a big production studio here, but look around—the state of Maine is our studio,” says Stephens. “We have some of the most beautiful scenery in the United States. And Mainers certainly can ‘tell the difference’” he adds. “This is what Maine really looks like. I’m excited with this film because here’s a chance for me to
practice my craft at home, which I don’t get to do very often.”
To find out more about the progress of Anatomy of the Tide, stay tuned to The Killer Convo on Facebook, which will keep the film’s fans and followers up to date with news on the lead cast, shooting locations and how locals can get involved.
The Killer Convo
This blog is a is a killer roundup of all arts, entertainment, brewery & distillery, food trucks, happy hour happenings in the Midcoast Maine. Feel free to email me anything about Midcoast arts, entertainment & the creative economy.