Most feature films — indie, big budget or otherwise — tend to have two different kinds of experiences for cast and crew. The cast lives in trailers and is separated from the crew, who congregate together and rarely associate off-set with the cast. This, however, was not the case for “Blue Potato,” the independent film written and directed by Maine native Aron Gaudet and his wife Gita Pullapilly. The film was shot in Van Buren and a handful of other Aroostook County locales, and for cast and crew alike, the creation of “Blue Potato,” which wrapped on Sept. 30, was a unique experience.
“We couldn’t find housing for 40 people, so our only choice was to put everyone under one roof,” said Pullapilly, who, with Gaudet, is best known for directing the documentary “The Way We Get By,” about the Maine Troop Greeters. “Everyone says you can’t do that, but for us, it was the best decision we ever made. Cast and crew really bonded. They’d be at a bonfire, listening to music, eating dinner, sharing stories. There was amazing chemistry, and it absolutely shines through in the footage we got. It was a total blessing.”
That homey, casual vibe found on set is reflected in the subject matter of “Blue Potato,” a tale of friends, family, and life in a remote town in Aroostook County. It shares the story of 17-year-old Dominic Roy, a headstrong teen working his final potato harvest to earn enough money to escape the pitfalls and boredom of his struggling northern Maine hometown. Conflict ensues as he fights to save his reckless best friend, Casper, who is drawn into smuggling illegal prescription drugs across the Canadian border with his outlaw father.
“It was so important for us to film in Aroostook County, to get that authentic look and feel,” said Pullapilly. “And our actors really embraced everything about it. Things evolved very organically, which gave it a lot of weight and emotion. They worked really hard on the accents and on immersing themselves in the culture of northern Maine.”
With shooting complete, Pullapilly and Gaudet are busy editing a rough cut of the film to ready it for early screenings and festival submissions in January or February. They plan to show the film at least a few times in Maine, as well as in New York and Los Angeles, and expect a trailer to appear in the coming weeks. They are shooting for a spring 2013 release.
The film features a combination of Maine and New York/LA actors, including two HBO actors, “Games of Thrones” star Aiden Gillen and “True Blood” star Carrie Preston, as well as David Denman, seen on NBC’s “The Office.” Callan McAuliffe, soon to be seen in Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby,” plays Dominic, while Emory Cohen of NBC’s “Smash” plays Casper.
Maine actors range from Timothy Simons, a native of Readfield who is also seen on HBO’s “Veep,” to locally based performers including Brooks native Scott Anthony Smith, Erik Moody of Portland and Peter Paton of Troy.
“The whole filming experience really went beyond all our expectations,” said Pullapilly. “We went in with a game plan that we’d get everything we wanted filmed, and we did, amazingly. There are scenes that you’ll see in the film that could only be from Maine. They’ve never been seen on film before. We’re very, very happy with it.”
The website for “Blue Potato” was launched in mid-November, and features a production diary and lots of on-set photos. Pullapilly notes that Van Buren locals were especially helpful during the shooting process, assisting filmmakers when they were in a jam and housing cast and crew in their homes.
“We could not have done this without the LaJoie family, whose actual blue potato farm we used,” said Pullapilly. “There were lots of surprises that popped up, like when we needed a bunch of generators and had no idea where to get them. People would just pull up with generators, all the ones they could find and borrow. We were able to stay on schedule, which was totally amazing and unique. We were very, very lucky.”