If you’ve been to the Nickelodeon lately, you might have seen a preview for a new Maine-made film and thought, “Hey, wait a minute – that looks like a real movie, with actors I recognize and everything.”
You’d be right, too. “Beneath the Harvest Sky,” the newest film from local directing/life partners Gita Pullapilly and Aron Gaudet is gearing up for its world premiere on April 25, right here in Maine (before screening at the Tribeca Film Festival, Toronto International Film festival and others).
After their first film, “The Way We Get By,” a documentary about the elderly troop greeters at the Bangor International Airport, was met with resounding acclaim, Pullapilly and Gaudet set their sights on their first feature film, a dark coming-of-age story about two friends heading in different directions against the backdrop of the annual potato harvest in northern Maine (filming was done in the border town of Van Buren).
I talked to the pair about the film and how making movies in Maine offers unique rewards.
When we last talked (in August 2012), the film was called “Blue Potato.” What happened?
Aron Gaudet: There were so many movies that came out with “blue” in the title.
Gita Pullapilly: “Blue Caprice,” “Blue Is the Warmest Color,” even “Bluebird,” which was also shot in Maine. So we said maybe it’s best to change it. Plus, so much has changed, with the actors and the editing – basically, the title didn’t fit well enough any more.
AG: There were more reasons for that title in the original script than in the final film.
“Beneath The Harvest Sky” is having its world premiere in eight Maine theaters on April 25 (including the Nickelodeon in Portland). Was that your doing?
GP: We fought for it. And the people at Tribeca Films (who are distributing the movie) – that’s one of the things we really loved about them. They went for it. It takes forever for films to open in Maine and a lot of them don’t come to places up north like Bangor. But the Maine community helped us make this film, and we wanted them to have a chance to see it first.
AG: We got as many venues as we could around Maine. We really pushed for a chance for Mainers to see it before New York and the rest of the country.
How did the Maine community help you make your movie, as you say?
GP: A lot of filmmakers would like to film in Maine, but the tax incentives aren’t here. The difference for us is that the communities really came out to help us. We had so many companies and people across the state who really helped make the movie possible.
AG: (Legendary Hollywood casting director) Allison Jones asked us about trailers for the actors. We went to Webb’s RV in Bangor, explained, and he handed us a piece of paper as told us to write out what we needed. He hauled this trailer up there and gave it to us for three months and then came and picked it up. For free. Another place gave us trailers for equipment and off-road vehicles.
GP: We befriended a lot of the farmers up there. The LaJoie family became members of our crew. Farmers are natural problem-solvers – Gil LaJoie built a whole car platform rigging out of old high school bleachers and some scrap metal. That’s what you can do in a place like Maine. It’s intense – you see your budget quickly dwindling, but you get this support. They want to see you succeed.
AG: We’re excited for them to see the film.
How did the actors “from away” (like Aidan Gillen from “Game of Thrones,” David Denman of “The Office,” W. Earl Brown of “Deadwood” and others) handle their time in the County?
AG: Overall, they had a great time. It was a little off the grid – sometimes your cell wouldn’t work. But they spent time kayaking, or on the lake – they really seemed to enjoy the outdoors, being in a place that wasn’t part of the daily grind of New York or L.A.
GP: Sarah Sutherland (daughter of Kiefer, granddaughter of Donald) fell in love with the area. She helped on the farm, and worked in a tiny shake shop. When she wrapped, she stayed two weeks longer.
AG: (Co-lead) Emory Cohen’s a method actor. Basically we dropped him off in the middle of Van Buren and had him figure out this world. In a week, everyone was calling him by his character name.
Give us your take on the film itself.
AG: It’s about two boys whose lives are pulling each other in different directions. One’s hoping to buy a car and get out of town, and the other starts dealing prescription drugs with his father and uncle across the border.
GP: It’s about that vulnerable age when friendship is the most important thing in your life. I look back at ’80s films like “At Close Range,” “Stand By Me” and “Rumble Fish,” which, in the world of “Twilight” and stuff like that, is missing today.
CHECK OUT Tribeca Films’ website (tribecafilm.com/tribecafilm/filmguide/beneath-the-harvest-sky) for Maine screening venues for “Beneath the Harvest Sky.” Also, Pullapilly and Gaudet will be in Portland at Space Gallery (www.space538.org) on April 26 for a filmmaker’s workshop and at a Q&A following the showings at the Nickelodeon (patriotcinemas.com).
Dennis Perkins is a Portland freelance writer.