MILLINOCKET, Maine — In the thick woods alongside Jerry Pond, actor Ted Levine — who famously portrayed serial killer Buffalo Bill in “The Silence of the Lambs” — drew his handgun and ordered fellow leading actor Thomas Hildreth to put his hands behind his back.
This was just one scene in the low-budget independent film, “The Girl in the Lake,” Hildreth’s second film set in Maine, and the second film shot in Millinocket and surrounding areas in the last two years. It’s part of a recent flurry of movies based in the state. Bluebird, an independent film that debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival in April, was shot in Millinocket and Lincoln last year. Hildreth and director Ian McCrudden shot “Islander,” starring Hildreth and Phillip Baker Hall in several coastal towns in 2005.
Movies are accretions of images, characters and star power that must meld into a fluid story to work, and Levine noticed with a little dismay a detail that he had overlooked during Tuesday’s shooting.
“I’m sorry,” Levine said. “I’m not wearing my glasses.”
Levine’s character, the police chief of a fictional Millinocket, wears what appears to be large bifocals. In several of the shots in the sequence, Levine was wearing them. But during a short break, he took them off and resumed shooting.
This is known as an error of continuity, a small thing in reality that looms large on the big screen. The Internet Movie Database, YouTube and dozens of other websites carry whole sections devoted to continuity goofs like missing eyeglasses.
If the camera records them, that is.
“Has my face been in the shot?” Levine asked.
“No,” the cameraman replied. “You’re fine.”
Levine smiled slightly, and the third week of filming continued without pause. Tuesday’s pace was brisk, and that was just fine for actor-producer Hildreth.
While the film story’s original setting took place in West Virginia lake country, Hildreth said he relocated to Millinocket to take advantage of the town’s gorgeous fall scenery and lakes.
“There is a grittiness here,” Hildreth said. “It also has this small-town America look to it that is very enticing. It could be downtown America really, but we are not trying to draw that much attention to the fact that this occurs in Millinocket. Access to the lakes here is the primary thing.”
Town Manager Peggy Daigle welcomed the motion picture crew to the Magic City. She said its presence has been a financial tonic to the town’s hotels, restaurants, caterers and other service providers.
“It’s good public relations,” Daigle said. “It will show people pieces of the town, I hope, that will draw more people here. It would be wonderful to have more filmmakers here. It is becoming a known fact that Millinocket is a haven to artists.”
Millinocket residents took well to the film’s requirements, McCrudden said. Dozens worked as unpaid extras, and others allowed location shooting on their properties. The film shot in the town office, police station and the bowling alley on Penobscot Avenue, which McCrudden said he found irresistible. Former Police Chief Donald Bolduc acted as an adviser on the film, he said.
The film’s actors, however, avoided using Maine accents, a decision Daigle lauded.
“Whenever [out-of-state filmmakers] attempt a downeast accent, it’s always distracting,” she said. “They never get it right.”
The filmmakers, Daigle said, have tried to spread their paid work among several town businesses to allow as many vendors to make money as possible. Hildreth said filming in Millinocket has been a happy experience and hopes to arrange a special screening of the film for town residents after its debut next spring. Shooting is expected to wrap in three weeks.
Daigle said she also tried to extend the town’s relationship with “The Girl in the Lake.” Noting that Millinocket lacks a police chief, she offered Levine the job, she said.
He demurred, gently, she said.
“He said, ‘You don’t really want me for that job.’”