April 30, 2010

Filming 'Wyeth' could put Maine in camera's frame

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

The producers of a major movie about the Wyeth family will meet today with Gov. John Baldacci and representatives of various state agencies to explore the possibility of shooting a significant portion of the movie in Maine.

WYETH
click image to enlarge

Artists Jamie Wyeth, left, and his father, Andrew, who died in 2009, approved the screen play for a major film about America’s first family of art. Producers hope to use Maine locations.

2004 Associated Press file

click image to enlarge

Devastated by his father's death in 1945, Andrew Wyeth found himself drawn to people like the crippled Christona Olson, whom he immortalized in 1948 in "Christina's World."

The movie, with a working title of "Wyeth," will tell the story of three generations of America's first family of art, focusing on the complicated relationships between Andrew, his father, N.C., and son, Jamie.

Jamie Wyeth, who lives in Maine, is a consulting producer for the project. Andrew Wyeth, one of America's most recognized painters, died in 2009. The Wyeth family has a long history in Maine and in Pennsylvania.

"The idea of filming in Maine is just a dream that we want to make come true," said Mary Kemper Wolf, executive producer for Snow Hill Productions. "We hope to film a majority of the film in Maine, and we're going to do everything we can to make it happen."

That desire may not be enough to overcome financial impediments. Maine offers far fewer financial incentives to moviemakers than nearby states, including Massachusetts, and the Canadian Maritimes.

To entice the producers, the state is trying to put together a creative incentive package that includes a significant investment of local money, part of which may come from collectors of Wyeth family paintings.

"We're contacting major collectors of Wyeth works to see if they want to be a part of this," said Donna McNeil, director of the Maine Arts Commission.

McNeil will facilitate today's meeting in Augusta, along with Lea Girardin of the Maine Film Office. In addition to the governor and the movie producers, representatives of the Finance Authority of Maine and the Department of Economic and Community Development are expected to attend.

Nearly every state offers financial incentives to attract filmmakers, usually in the form of tax credits or rebates. Massachusetts offers as much as 25 percent.

Maine offers about 9 percent, Giardin said.

"We may not be able to match (Massachusetts' incentives), but if we come close, we hope that Maine's artistic strengths will carry the day. Our look is worth a lot," Giardin said. "However, we realize that as a producer, you can only afford to pay so much extra for that. If it gets to the point that we're talking about a gap of a half-million dollars or so, that might be too much to overcome."

Wolf said the film has a tentative budget of about $7.5 million. She and her other producers are negotiating with a high-profile director, whom she declined to name. If their plan holds, filming will begin next year.

Giardin said the movie would be a coup for Maine, because of the credibility of the people involved. Wolf is an independent film producer who specializes in fine-arts productions. She wrote and directed "120 Wooster Street," which aired on PBS in 2004.

Also involved are Eric Keith, CEO of Capstone Entertainment Group, which has produced many major films. Executive producer David Rosenfeld has produced more than 30 feature films over a 20-year career, including "Howard's End," "Jefferson in Paris" and "The Remains of the Day."

The writer, Frank Barhydt, has worked several times with director Robert Altman, on such projects as "The Player," "Short Cuts" and Kansas City."

Giardin said it's important for Maine to offer a competitive incentive package, because the film would employ a significant number of Maine workers who are in the film industry.

While $7.5 million is a modest budget for a movie by Hollywood standards, "that's a good-sized budget for a movie in Maine," she said.

The Maine-made movie with the largest budget was "Message in a Bottle," at $26 million.

(Continued on page 2)

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