OLD ORCHARD BEACH — Two southern Maine communities are both the backdrop and the inspiration for a feature-length independent movie being filmed this week.

Journey Home Pictures, a creative collective based in Massachusetts and New York that specializes in narrative film, was in Saco and Old Orchard Beach this week filming scenes for “Pretenders.”

“We’ve chosen Saco and Old Orchard as a location because of the beautiful beach, boardwalk and landscape. The vacation town perfectly fits the vibe we’re going for,” said Journey Home Pictures marketing specialist Brandan Blom.

The film centers around three friends about four or five years out of high school who reconnect and decide to take a road trip together, said director Tristen Stafford. The three arrive at an old familiar place to learn that everything there has changed.

The trio realizes that, because no one knows who they are, they each can pretend to be someone else, and they escape life for a while by masquerading as other people, said Stafford.

Stafford and assistant director Adam Gale describe the movie as “a coming of age” LGBTQ romantic comedy. The film doesn’t directly focus on the struggles of the LGBTQ community, but it doesn’t gloss over them either, they said.

The movie will appeal to LGBTQ audiences as well as fans of comedies like “Superbad,” they said.

The crew was filming a scene Friday afternoon at George’s Parking, a private parking lot in downtown Old Orchard Beach. Diata Coleman, Libby Larkin and Emma Myers, the three leads in the film, worked on a scene toward the end of the film that catches the trio acting silly together and pretending to be in a slow motion race.

Scenes were also filmed Friday at Gale’s family beach house in the Camp Ellis neighborhood of Saco.

The crew was expected to wrap up filming in Maine shortly, and had shot scenes earlier this year in New York.

Many of the cast and crew were students or graduates of Stafford and Gale’s alma mater, State University of New York at Purchase.

Myers was friends with Stafford in college and had worked on a prior film with Gale and Stafford. With prior experience in casting at Nickelodeon, she cast the talent for “Pretenders” in addition to playing a lead role.

Larkin said she had never worked on a comedy before, and she wanted to try something different.

The cast was not only drawn to the film’s story, but they enjoyed filming in Maine.

“It’s very quaint. I saw my first shooting star,” said Coleman.

Saco and Old Orchard Beach are where Stafford and Gale got their inspiration for the movie.

The two periodically go to the beach house in Camp Ellis to get away from New York and write in the peace and quiet of the southern Maine coast in the winter.

“It’s a breath of fresh air,” said Gale. Getting out of the normal routine helps get the creative juices flowing, he said.

The two came up to Saco to work on a script and were eating at a restaurant in Old Orchard Beach.

“We had the idea, we can pretend to be anybody we want to be,” said Stafford.

Not only was it something fun to muse about, but it was the perfect basis of a movie, thought the two. They put aside the movie they had been writing to start “Pretenders.”

“We began to write a way better movie instead,”said Gale.

The movie went through seven drafts. Stafford and Gale intend to pitch “Pretenders” to film festivals. The movie is expected to be released in early 2021.

— Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be contacted at 780-9015 or egotthelf@journaltribune.com.

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