October 13, 2011

Indie Film: Rockland director urges state to stand by its filmmakers

Most everyone has a soft spot for the 1986 film "Stand by Me." An alternately touching, funny and scary coming-of-age story of four Maine boys on an ill-fated journey to find a dead body in the Maine woods, it was written by Maine legend Stephen King, and, like the majority of King's works, references all things Maine.

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Daniel Stephens, cinematographer; Joel Strunk, director and screenwriter; and Ryan Post, producer of "Anatomy of the Tide."

Courtesy photo


THE BIG EASY, bigeasyportland.com

Today: "The Reel Rock Film Tour." Attention rockhounds! (Rockheads? Rockers?) Anyway, people who like to climb on rocks should come out to see this traveling highlight film of people dangling precariously from things.

USM PLANETARIUM, usm.maine.edu/planet

Monday: "Orbit." Space Gallery co-sponsors an omnibus 11 short-film art/film project, with each movie representing (in its own way) each planet of the solar system. Come get some stars with your movies.

And the fact that it was filmed literally as far from Maine as you can get in the contiguous United States (Oregon and California) does not sit well with Maine director Joel Strunk.

"The state of Maine should get off its duff and offer tax incentives for filmmakers," Strunk says heatedly. "If people were given the tools, there would be more jobs. Massachusetts and Rhode Island have 25 to 30 percent tax breaks, but we're shooting ourselves in the foot."

Strunk's dudgeon at the Maine Legislature is pretty altruistic, because his first feature, the Maine-set, Maine-filmed (in Rockland and Vinalhaven) coming-of-age film "Anatomy of the Tide" has the earmarks of an unequivocal success story already -- without a penny in state money in its impressive $600,000-plus budget.

Strunk, whose script won the prestigious Nicholl screenwriting fellowship, has pursued his dream project from his home in Rockland, where he works as a fisherman ("Lobster, urchin, now tuna -- I've fished for it all," he says). He credits a solid business plan, a dedicated team and Mainers' generosity with making his film happen.

"We made a short promo trailer to show to potential investors," said Strunk. "Ryan Post is the lead fundraiser, and Rob Odlin raised money in Portland, and we financed the majority of the film off the decks of lobster boats. (Other fishermen) just read the script and believed in it. We also got a lot of in-kind donations; the Samoset Inn put up all of our stars."

Speaking of stars, "Anatomy of the Tide" attracted an impressive mix of well-known pros, including John Shea and Jamie-Lynn Sigler of "The Sopranos." Young up-and-comers Gabriel Basso from "Super 8," Daniel Flaherty from "Skins" and Nathan Keyes from "Ben 10" fill the lead roles of three island boys confronting the possibility of leaving home -- and a dark secret.

"We just have amazing young talent," said Strunk, who described the film as "Stand by Me" crossed with "Mystic River." "Making a movie with a young person that's going to be a big star is just a gift."

"Anatomy of the Tide" is wrapping up its 30-day shoot, and looks to hit theaters next year. In addition to his aspirations for his movie, Strunk hopes Maine reaches out to its filmmaking community.

"Maine is the best movie set in the world," he says, "and we're going to prove it in this movie."

Dennis Perkins is a Portland freelance writer.


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