Filmmaker Lance Edmands began making movies in his hometown of Kennebunk at age 7, where he would experiment with his camera while running around in the woods and his backyard.
While he went to film school at New York University and since has gone on to work on movies by Jim Jarmusch, Todd Solondz and the recent indie hit “Tiny Furniture,” it’s appropriate that the writer-director will return to his home state to make his first feature film, “Bluebird.”
“I’ve always wanted to come back to Maine to shoot,” Edmands said in a recent phone interview. “It was always my goal [and] my idea to return home to shoot and kind of make it feel like it was when I was a kid, running around in the woods again.”
Only this time, the crew is much bigger and the process is much more structured.
With the first round of open acting auditions being held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 5, at the University of Maine’s Lord Hall, the filmmaker plans to shoot “Bluebird” in the Katahdin region in January. He described the project as a dramatic feature centered on a small town dealing with the aftermath of a tragedy.
The movie is inspired by the isolated northern Maine landscape, in which Edmands finds a stark duality. “[It’s] both really isolating and horrible and cold and penetrating, but at the same time I thought that there was a beauty and a calmness and a kind of almost peaceful oneness that you feel there.”
For the auditions Friday, Edmands is looking to cast teenagers, specifically a boy and a girl, to play characters navigating the complexities of falling in love within the reeling small-town Maine backdrop.
“I’m looking for real kids, raw, sort of innocent kids that still have a certain intelligence — a certain sort of emotional intelligence — but [who are] still very real and very teenage,” Edmands said, noting that there’s no need to prepare for the audition.
The auditions being held at UMaine emphasize Edmands’ desire to make “Bluebird” as local as possible, working with the Maine Film Office, the Maine Arts Commission and Maine people. Throughout the week, the director has found himself driving all around the state trying to get people involved, which included a stop to give a talk at Maine Media Workshops in Rockport.
“We’re doing this in a grass-roots way, and we know that reaching out to people is gonna be the best way to make the most for a fairly small project,” Edmands said.
“Bluebird” also is being developed in part by the Sundance Institute. Edmands initially workshopped the film through the institute’s Screenwriters and Director’s Lab, which gave the filmmaker a chance to get feedback from industry professionals.