JONESPORT, Maine — Nearly a dozen people are inside an old office building that houses the Jonesport Historical Society. The majority of them, technicians for a film production crew, are jammed into one tiny room along with the director and an actress.
The camera focuses on a wooden counter as the group shoots a scene depicting a post office. A member of the production crew holds the clapperboard in front of the camera, then removes it. The camera rolls. The actress places her hand on three envelopes, slides them down the counter, pauses, then taps her finger on them. Cut. The scene is repeated several times, at various speeds.
Welcome to Hollywood.
Production began earlier this month for a movie being filmed in the fishing village of Jonesport, with several scenes shot on nearby Mistake Island to include Moose Peak Light. The film, set in the mid-1800s, is about a woman tending a lighthouse for her ailing husband. The heroine 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. The project is the brainchild of Erica Fae, a New York City-based performer, writer, director and maker of short films. Her credits for this film will include writer, director, producer and lead actress.
Producer Jane Applegate, who discussed the production while shooting was underway at the nearby historical society building, characterized the movie as a “modified low-budget independent film” that will cost less than $500,000. The film will be finished during the winter and entered in film festivals in the spring of 2015, then hopefully sold thereafter.
Although the movie features no actors from Maine, the production has drawn on several Mainers who work in the film industry, including a set engineer, a set designer and production assistants. Several area residents also are being used as extras.
Scenes are being filmed on the island as well as in Jonesport, Machias and Lubec. Filming began Aug. 11 and is scheduled to end Sept. 5.
The production has been “incredibly wonderful but extremely challenging,” Applegate said.
“The challenge is moving back and forth to the island,” she said.
The production has four boats on call to move cast, crew and equipment back and forth. The trip takes 25-50 minutes one way, depending on the boat.
Antti Reini of Finland, the film’s leading man, is well-known for his film and television roles in his native country.
“He’s like the Harrison Ford of Finland,” Applegate said.
Reini portrays a Swedish sailor who washes up on the island.
Reini, 49, was attracted by the “good script” and the opportunity to work on a film in the U.S., he said during a break from filming.
“It feels like home,” Reini said, comparing the Down East region to Finland, which is considerably farther north but also supports wild blueberries, he indicated.
The production is spending nearly $100,000 in Maine for supplies, contract services and other expenses, Applegate estimated. For example, the production is renting six homes in Jonesport to house the cast and crew, which numbers about 28 people.
Moosabec Video & Variety store, located about a block from where shooting was taking place Tuesday, is one business that has benefitted from the production. Inside, three regulars were seated near a couple of tables, one of whom had a partly assembled jigsaw puzzle laid out. On a counter against the wall were self-serve hot dogs and coffee. Outside, a pickup truck that was being gassed up gave off the pungent smell of lobster bait. The production has brought him some business, owner Byron Carver Jr. noted.
“It’s helped us out some,” he said.
“Everybody’s quite interested with what’s going on,” Carver added.
Tommy King, the owner of T.A. King & Son Building Supplies, a hardware store and building supply business across the street, also has profited from the production, which spent about $10,000-15,000 at his company to buy lumber and other materials to build a set on the island.
“I’ll take that kind of donation,” King said.
The cast and crew have been “friendly, nice,” he said, though distinctly “city-like.”
“Down East here, we’re a little more laid back,” King said.
The owner of the lighthouse, Connecticut businessman Don Vaccaro, contributed $50,000 to pay for the cost of building a set on the island, which will be used to film exterior scenes of the home of the heroine.
“Without that (support), we wouldn’t have a film,” Applegate said.
Vaccaro referred to the “amazing” cooperation of the community, the Coast Guard and federal officials.
“If it wasn’t for the cooperation of everyone working together, it never would have happened,” he said by phone Wednesday.
The cast and crew have been “completely embraced by the town,” Applegate said.
“People have been incredibly cooperative and helpful in all ways,” she said.
Heidi Hinkley, a librarian at the town’s Peabody Memorial Library, agreed that townspeople have welcomed the production with open arms.
“That’s the way it seems to be,” she said, though she added that several residents were still unaware the production was underway.
“It’s really made a boost to the economy, and it’s been great for the morale of the town, too,” Hinkley said.