People have told Joel Strunk that he has enough energy to power Maine Yankee for a year.
That must be true. How else can you explain the tuna fisherman’s accomplishment of making a feature-length film with a cast of stars for a little less than a $1 million?
Equally impressive, he and co-producer/fellow fisherman Ryan Post raised almost all that money in Maine, and much of it a few thousand dollars at a time from friends in the fishing community.
Strunk, son of the late Maine singer/songwriter Jud Strunk, wrote the script and directs “Anatomy of the Tide,” a drama about sexual abuse on a Maine island known for its lobstering tradition.
Think of it as a cross between “Stand By Me” and “Mystic River.” It’s a gritty, intense coming-of-age drama that sometimes strikes a little too close to home.
Strunk and his creative team shot most of the movie last fall in Maine. They have a few scenes to complete this spring.
The goal is to finish shooting and editing in time to submit the movie by the fall deadline for consideration for the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
FATHER FIGURED IN THE PROCESS
Strunk, 47, lives in Union with his wife and two children. He has spent most of his life chasing tuna. The movie represents a chase of another kind.
After his father died in a plane crash in 1981, Strunk tried to live up to his father’s hopes for a life in the entertainment business. In an interview last week, he admitted to feeling the pressure of his father’s friendship and legacy.”When you lose such a good friend who also happens to be your father in a plane crash, you tend to over-idolize him,” he said. “It almost feels like a curse. You put so much pressure on yourself. You sometimes wonder if it’s the right thing to do, because what if you don’t succeed? Look at the equity you’re dealing with. It’s your whole life.”
That’s another way of saying that Strunk has put many of the things most important to him on the line to make this movie. Among them: His reputation as well as his family’s legacy.
Jud Strunk rose to unlikely fame. He was a banjo player and comedian, and made it into the Billboard Top 20 with his 1973 ballad “Daisy a Day.” But he was best known for his novelty songs and humor. He toured with Andy Williams, and performed many times on national TV, including “The Tonight Show” starring Johnny Carson.
The elder Strunk was a folk hero in Maine, and almost won election to the Maine Senate. He died at age 45 when the plane he was flying crashed during take-off at Carrabasset Valley.
Young Joel toured with his dad, and caught the entertainment bug at a young age. But for many years, he turned away and concentrated on fishing instead.
“Anatomy of the Tide” brings together two of the most important elements of his life: His family and his passion for the water.
ANATOMY OF MAKING A MOVIE
Strunk wrote the script for “Anatomy of the Tide” more than a decade ago. He has written a dozen or so movie scripts, and earned the attention of folks in the movie business who encouraged him to keep trying.
“Anatomy” began as a true story about the intentional decimation of the deer herd on Monhegan because of rampant Lyme disease. His idea was to take that story and turn it into a feel-good youth fantasy about local boys who harbor the last living deer on the island.
As he began writing that story, a different storyline emerged. As artists do, Strunk followed the muse and came up with a chilling tale about three island boys in their final summer of adolescence. Each has his own set of hopes and dreams, and is bound by dark secrets.
The title comes from one boy’s lesson to his friends about how to jump the island’s most dangerous cliff by understanding the movement of the sea below.
Working with a talent scout, Strunk recruited an accomplished group of actors to fill key roles, including Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Robbie Amell, James Colby, Daniel Flaherty, Spencer Locke, Gabriel Basso, John Fiore, John Shea and Nathan Keyes. Among them, their credits include “The Sopranos,” “Law & Order,” “Cheaper by the Dozen,” “Resident Evil,” “Mystic Pizza,” “Meet the Parents” and “Mrs. Smith Goes to Washington.”
Strunk supplemented the stars with local talent, much of it from the Portland theater scene, including Daniel Noel, Matthew Delameter and Jennifer McLeod.
Most of the movie has been shot on the midcoast, at Owls Head, Rockland, Thomaston and out to Vinalhaven. It’s set in the fictional island community of Cliff Haven.
The story revolves around island people, fishermen and summer folk. There is a subplot that includes a shady drug deal, but the primary focus of the movie are the secrets that revolve around an abusive island pastor, portrayed with just the right amount of good and evil by Noel.
Strunk has big hopes for this movie. Aiming for a slot at Sundance might seem ambitious, but he feels he has all three of the elements required to make a great film: A great soundtrack, strong visuals and a touching human story.
He is in deep negotiations with Billy Joel about the soundtrack. The movie looks great, but he wants to reshoot a few scenes in June to make it even better.
And the story could not be more timely.
“It’s a socially significant story,” Strunk says. “It’s about not hiding the secrets inside ourselves and parents’ responsibilities when there are problems with their kids, so they can deal with it then and not carry them around for years.
“It’s a story about freedom and getting free of yourself.”
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or: