May 5, 2010

All signs point to Maine for 'Wyeth' movie shoot

Filmmakers give a verbal commitment at a meeting with Gov. John Baldacci.

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Maine officials are confident that a group of independent filmmakers will choose Maine as the primary location for their feature film about three generations of Wyeth family painters.

The filmmakers met last week with Gov. John Baldacci and representatives of state agencies to explore financing options for their movie, tentatively titled "Wyeth."

Lea Girardin, director of the Maine Film Office, and Donna McNeil, director of the Maine Arts Commission, said Tuesday that the meeting went well and they are confident that the film will be shot in Maine, most likely in 2011.

"Everyone is on board," Girardin said. "They really do want to shoot in Maine and we really want them to shoot in Maine."

McNeil said, "They really did make a verbal commitment, and the governor shook their hands, turned to everybody in the room and said, 'We want to make this happen.' So now it's a matter of working out the details."

The executive producer for the movie, Mary Kemper Wolf, said those characterizations of the meeting are accurate.

The key to making it happen, she said in an e-mail Tuesday, is the commitment in Maine.

"We are hoping to raise a large portion of our production budget with the help of Maine residents," she wrote. "We would like nothing more than to film the majority of the picture in Maine and are eager to bring jobs to the state as a result."

As much as 80 percent of the movie could be shot in Maine. The rest will be shot in the Wyeth family's primary home base, Pennsylvania, Wolf said.

The issue of money still could complicate the plan for making the movie in Maine.

While Massachusetts offers as much as 25 percent in tax credits and rebates, Maine offers closer to 9 percent. Part of that difference could be made up through local investment.

The film has a budget of about $7.5 million, though that figure is preliminary, Wolf said.

The filmmakers' primary goal is lining up a director. Wolf has said that she and her partners are negotiating with a high-profile director, whom she declined to name.

After a director commits to the project, they can focus on other details, including recruiting actors and choosing filming locations.

The search for locations will begin this summer, Wolf said. Production will begin in the spring of 2011.

The movie will explore the complicated relationships between Andrew Wyeth, his father, N.C., and son, Jamie. Andrew Wyeth died in early 2009. Jamie lives on an island off midcoast Maine. He has signed on as a consulting producer for the project.

Girardin said the next step will involve answering the filmmakers' questions. They received the state's incentive package on Friday. Meanwhile, the film office will suggest locations for filming to the producers.

"We need to keep our feet on the ground, but we're excited and happy and pleased with the direction this is going," Girardin said.

Wolf said her son is happy with the direction, as well. She said Baldacci gave her a moose mug as a gift during the meeting, to give to her son. "Like my 3-year-old son said upon my return from Augusta, 'I'm ready to go to moose country!'"

 

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

bkeyes@pressherald.com

 

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