JONESPORT, Maine — A New York City woman is planning to film a movie on location in Jonesport and nearby Moose Peak Light. People associated with the project are hoping a successful movie could be a beacon to draw more tourists Down East.
Erica Fae, a New York City-based performer, writer, director and maker of short films, plans to shoot the film on location in August. The process will take three to five weeks, she estimated. Some scenes, particularly interiors, likely will be filmed in the village of Jonesport.
The film will be about a woman tending a lighthouse for her ailing husband in the mid-1800s. A website with information about the project describes the film as a “visually striking drama (that) blends psychological suspense, passion and feminist revelation into a story of quiet rebellion.”
Fae, who wrote the script, has focused some of her work as a writer, creator and performer on historical women leaders, such as Joan of Arc and suffragist Alice Paul, and she also is interested in little-known women.
One of the first nonclerical government jobs for women was that of lighthouse keeper, she learned.
“I found that … interesting,” she said, discussing the project by phone recently. She did more research and learned about a number of women who were “pretty amazing.”
The heroine of the film is a fictional, composite character based on two real women — Abbie Burgess, known for tending Matinicus Rock Light and Whitehead Light in midcoast Maine, and Ida Lewis, a lighthouse keeper in Rhode Island.
When she began researching lighthouse locations, Fae found a website that provided details of every one in Maine.
“I started at the top and went all the way down,” she said.
Fae referred to the lighthouse with the female pronoun. “She needs to be beautiful,” she said. “She needs to look right. She needs the right aesthetic.”
Moose Peak Light, which is located on Mistake Island, fit the bill.
“It really is a beautiful lighthouse, according to me,” she said.
In addition, Fae had to identify a lighthouse with owners who would make it amenable for the project. Many lighthouses are on government property, she noted, and it would have taken considerable time to obtain permission for filming.
“When I found Moose Peak and tracked down the owner, it was like this ‘perfect storm'” of favorable circumstances, said Fae. Although she considered several others, Moose Peak was the only one she visited for the purposes of scouting the location, making a trip to Jonesport in November.
Don Vaccaro, a Glastonbury, Conn., businessman who bought the lighthouse at auction from the federal government a little over a year ago, gave his permission to allow filming. He will not profit from the production, he said.
“I told them … I don’t want money for it. You can use the island,” Vaccaro said.
Vaccaro owns the lighthouse and 4 or 5 acres. Although he owns it, the Coast Guard has an easement to continue operating the lighthouse and a fog horn with solar power. The island itself is approximately 27 acres and is located about 5 miles southeast of Jonesport.
The economic benefits to Jonesport will depend on the budget for the project, noted Fae, who characterized it as a low-budget — tentatively, $1.5 million — feature film that probably will run about 90 minutes. However, a cast and crew of about 25 people will have to live and eat in Jonesport, extras will be used, fishermen will be hired to convey people to the island, and the project will entail other expenses.
The director and cast have not yet been chosen, but Fae named Jane Applegate as producer.
Financing partners for the film are still being sought.
“It’s the kind of project that takes a village to make it happen,” said Fae.
If the film does well, “Hopefully, down the road … it will potentially draw visitors to that part of Maine,” said Fae.
Harry Fish, a member of the town’s Board of Selectmen, agreed.
“Hopefully it will attract more tourists and visitors coming through the summer” as people hear about and are acquainted with the film, said Fish.
Vaccaro also is hopeful the movie will be successful and stimulate tourism for the fishing village, drawing visitors farther north on the Maine coast to Down East.
“It would get folks up there,” he said.
The people of Jonesport are “looking forward” to the prospect of the film production, said Fish. Townspeople readily voted at a special town meeting Dec. 6 to give Fae permission to use the name “Jonesport” in the film.
“They’re all excited,” said Fish.