Filmmakers and married couple Jennifer Cordery and Matt Cascella, who moved to Portland in 2020, shoot a scene for their movie “Hangdog” at the Eastern Prom on Monday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Husband-and-wife filmmakers Matt Cascella and Jennifer Cordery moved to Portland from New York City a couple years ago and immediately felt inspired.

They drew on their new home and its energy to write a comedy-drama called “Hangdog,” which focuses on a couple that recently moved to Portland.

The film is being shot all over the city this month, including on Peaks Island, on Munjoy Hill, in the Old Port, downtown and along the waterfront. The filmmakers say it will be submitted to film festivals later this year and are hoping festival screenings will be scheduled for early 2023, followed by streaming.

“When we moved here, we were really burnt out on New York. Creating your own work there is so challenging, there’s so much competition and so many hurdles,” said Cordery, 40. “But here, we’ve met such wonderful people and we both had such a jolt of creative inspiration.”

Desmin Borges interacts with Mr. Tibbs while shooting a scene with Kelly O’Sullivan at the Eastern Prom on Monday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The film’s action centers on Walt, an anxiety-ridden 30-something who loses his girlfriend Wendy’s dog. He searches for it all over the city, which he’s not too familiar with yet, running into various characters and situations along the way. Though Walt and Wendy have recently moved to Portland, as Cascella and Cordery have, the story is not strictly autobiographical.

“We sort of scrambled up our feelings and our traits between the two,” said Cascella, 36, the film’s director. “We do have a dog and the love of our dog is an inspiration.”


The film’s cast includes several veterans of Hollywood films and TV shows. Desmin Borges, who plays Walt, was one of the stars of the comedy-drama series “You’re The Worst,” which aired on the FX cable network. Barbara Rosenblat, who plays Walt and Wendy’s neighbor, played inmate Miss Rosa Cisneros in the Netflix prison drama “Orange is the New Black.”

Catherine Curtin, who plays a character named Buffy, was also in “Orange is the New Black,” as well as the Netflix sci-fi series “Stranger Things.” Another cast member, Steve Coulter, had recurring roles in the Paramount series “Yellowstone,” the Netflix series “House of Cards” and “The Walking Dead” on AMC.

“Hangdog” stars Desmin Borges and Kelly O’Sullivan sit on a bench with Mr. Tibbs, while shooting a scene at the Eastern Prom on Monday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Maine-based actor Matthew Delamater, who was recently in the George Clooney-directed film “The Tender Bar,” is also in the cast. At least half the crew is Maine-based, including cinematographer Nathan Golon. The film is being made for less than $500,000 with financing from the filmmakers, friends and family. Filming began in early April and is scheduled to wrap up this week after scenes on the Eastern Promenade and Munjoy Hill are shot.

While based in New York, both Cascella and Cordery worked primarily on documentaries, Cascella as an editor and director and Cordery as a producer and in various production roles. Cascella’s credits include editing a short documentary shown on Netflix called “Long Shot,” about a man arrested for murder who uses footage shot for the TV show “Curb Your Enthusiasm” to prove his innocence. Cordery was production coordinator for the documentary mini-series “Belief,” hosted by Oprah Winfrey.

They moved to Portland from Brooklyn in September 2020 after the pandemic shut down almost all film production. They already had been interested in living somewhere else, but the pandemic and consequential rise in remote work for filmmakers convinced them to make a move. They knew Golon, who was already living in Portland, and he talked up the city’s charms.

They say they’ve been amazed at how open and friendly people in Maine have been, both in welcoming them as neighbors and in helping with the film. Their backyard neighbor, Jess Gillman, gave them tomatoes to welcome them to the Munjoy Hill neighborhood. She is partly the inspiration for the backyard neighbor in the movie, and the filmmakers will be using her porch for a scene this week. Gillman, an artist, is also creating a miniature outhouse to be used in the shoot. But she doesn’t want to say what it’s purpose is, for fear of giving away too much of the plot.


“When they told me they had written this, I was excited. It just made sense to me that they would work on something creative like this together,” Gillman said.

Director of photography Nathan Golon of Portland and first assistant director Kate Alden, who is originally from Brunswick, set up a shot while filming on Monday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Cordery and Cascella say they’ve come across many people who’ve offered them help with the film. Several businesses, including Bangs Island Mussels on the Portland waterfront and Brad’s Bike Shop on Peaks Island, were used as filming locations, as was a boat near DiMillo’s floating restaurant in Portland. When they were looking to film in a cannabis dispensary, they walked into the newly opened Meowy Jane on Market Street in the Old Port, and the owners happily agreed to be part of the shoot.

The film crew also spent about eight days on Peaks Island, where they used cottages at the Illustration Institute on the north end of the island as a base of operations and a filming location. Cascella had met illustrator and institute co-founder Scott Nash at a gathering last year, and Nash said he’d love to help out with the filming. Nash, who has a cameo in the film as a worker in the bike shop, said he loved the story and the way the script depicted Peaks Island and Portland.

“They had done their research and really seemed to get the feel of the place,” Nash said.

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