Wednesday, March 12, 2014
By Bob Keyes firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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
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.
Wolf said she began seriously considering shooting in Maine after a conversation with Betsy Evans Hunt, a friend and a former board member of the Portland Museum of Art. Hunt, who lives in Maine, and Wolf serve on the board of the Addison Gallery of American Art at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass.
She told Hunt that she was making the Wyeth movie and considering shooting the Maine scenes in Canada or Massachusetts. "She would not have it," Wolf said.
"She said, 'If there is anything I can do to help lure you here to have this film shot where it should be, I will do it.' She was an advocate."
Giardin said Maine has much to offer -- and a lot to lose.
"We've got a great workforce here and some knockout locations, and everybody knows it. Maine's got the look. We want them to shoot in Maine for the authenticity of it," she said.
Wolf, without committing to shooting in Maine, said she and her team will make every effort to make as much of the movie as possible in Maine.
"We're really excited about being able to use authentic locations. That is our goal. It's hard to re-create Maine's particular sumptuous coastline," he said.
Likely locations include many of the Wyeth haunts along the midcoast, including the family's private island homes.
Wolf said the family has given its blessing to the movie. Andrew Wyeth read and approved the screenplay, Wolf said.
"I'm sorry that he will not be able to see it, but he was behind it and told us not to go easy on him."
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at: