In the 11 years that I’ve been writing this column and getting to know the filmmakers of Maine, the question always arises: are you staying or are you going?
Everyone has to start somewhere, but, for those aspiring filmmakers who aren’t fortunate enough to grow up in Los Angeles or New York (or maybe now Atlanta), there comes a time when the decision has to be made. socket. Are you on the hunt for industry hotspots (where you’re the smallest fish in the biggest predator-filled pond), or are you trying to survive in a state where the local movie scene is still? very work in progress?
“Things have changed that allow us to be here, to do more work here and not feel like we have to make that choice.”
It’s Sara Friedman, a Cape Elizabeth native, actress, producer and now first-time feature film director, who, alongside Dave Register, another Cape Elizabeth High School alumnus, brings not just her years back to Maine. experience in New York and Los Angeles, but also a whole new attitude to the always daunting idea of making a movie in Maine.
“Heightened” marks Friedman’s directorial debut. The story of a young Maine woman whose struggles with mental illness sees her rush to a Maine state park, where she meets an eccentric ranger (Register), the low-budget independent film is in the works to shoot in Cape Elizabeth, Scarborough and Portland, among other mixed-use locations in Maine.
An extension of Friedman’s 2015 short film of the same name, also starring Register, “Heightened” is, in Friedman’s words, “an uplifting story that honestly deals with mental health without shying away from comedy.” It’s also the example of a filmmaker from Maine who comes home and brings with her her passion project (and a whole hard-earned experience in show business).
Joking that she actually “headed for the big city” at age 18 (going to New York University’s Tisch School for the Arts, then LA), Friedman says her deeply personal short was a story that she “couldn’t get out of (her) head. After achieving some success as an actress and in a production role at The Independent Film Channel (IFC), Friedman decided the time had come to resume acting – and get back to the beginning. After all, as another creative guy from Maine once wrote: “Sometimes they come back. “
With “Heightened” gearing up for what Friedman calls “Quick 15 Days” of filming, she and Register have assembled an impressive list of partners. There are Cut 4 productions‘John Hermann and the mainstay of indie Inclined windmill productions (directed by part-time Mainer Matt Ratner), whose combined commitment to independent filmmaking spawned fascinating projects starring William Jackson Harper, Ben Schwartz, Aya Cash, Hannibal Buress, Sarah Silverman and Tig Notaro. And Register’s own East Shore Arts (recently featured in the Press Herald) handles the field details often overlooked here at home, from securing locations to building relationships here in Maine.
Says the Register actor-producer (most recently seen onscreen in “Madam Secretary” and “FBI”), “My experience here in Maine is that people will help if they can, and if they are. made to care about the project. A lot of people think it’s cool to be a part of something, to try to change something. They’ll ask you “Wait, are you making a movie here?” We get money into the state in a variety of ways, top to bottom, and we’re always happy to write that check.
Friedman (who appeared alongside Register in Maine-shot 2018 “The Witch Files“, from another director of Maine back Kyle Rankin) agrees, citing her anticipation of filming in her home country, and noting that the six years of acting, directing and producing the knowledge she has gained in the business will all be put to good use for create a bigger and better “heightened”.
“It’s going to be better and richer,” Friedman said of his feature film. “We’ve expanded the story, introduced new characters, and we’re looking to really present Maine in a much more impressive way.”
Laughing at any suggestion that “Hightened” could be moved to a location more adjacent to the industry, Friedman says his film is, at its heart, “an unbelievably Maine movie.” “There are so many elements in ‘Hightened’ that are so specific to Maine,” Friedman explained, “from the fictional state park it’s in, to the types of people, to the aesthetic, which is a beauty so specific to Maine. “
As for up-and-coming industry pros like Friedman and Register bringing this unique Maine story to its place, Friedman said recent changes in the industry have allowed more freedom. Noting that the pandemic has made recorded auditions the norm in recent years, Friedman and Register both say the ability to do more things virtually has loosened the tie in New York or LA for independent filmmakers and actors, a unfortunately necessary adjustment which may only be good for those looking to retain their connection to their home.
“The more time I spent away from Maine, the more I see a lot of value in it,” Friedman said. “This is my first feature film to direct, and it’s really exciting to do it here. I feel like my whole career has led to this.
You could see production on the film across southern Maine in the coming weeks and should be looking for it to hit theaters next year. You can read more about Maine natives and returning movie moguls Sara Friedman and Dave saramintaha.com and @dave _sign up on Instagram.
Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his wife and cat.
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