A short film shot on both Mount Desert Island and in Bangor was on the short list for an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film.
“Sometimes, I Think About Dying,” written and directed by Stefanie Abel Horowitz and starring and co-written by Fryeburg native Katy Wright-Mead, based on a play by Kevin Armento, was short-listed for the live-action short-film category in December, though it did not end up being among the final nominees for the category, which were announced this morning in Los Angeles.
“Sometimes, I Think About Dying” had its world premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, and has since been featured in more than 40 film festivals in the U.S., Canada and Europe.
The evocative, intimate, 12-minute film tells the story of Fran (Wright-Mead), a painfully shy, clinically depressed woman constantly contemplating her own death. A date with a gentle, patient co-worker named Robert brings her story to an emotional climax — though not quite a resolution.
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Though Horowitz is based in California, she and Wright-Mead knew that their script demanded a different sort of location — one that ended up being on the other side of the country.
“It just did not feel like a Los Angeles story, or even a California story,” Horowitz said. “And we knew we wanted to film somewhere like Maine, where people aren’t so used to film crews. We shot in Michigan for our first film, and it was really such a great experience. People are happy to see you. They want to help you. It’s not really about the money.”
Horowitz connected with the Barn Arts Collective, a Bass Harbor-based performing arts collaborative founded by Tremont resident Andrew Simon, with whom she went to college at Emory University in Atlanta. Horowitz had come to Barn Arts for a residency for several summers, and knew Simon could assist the crew with securing locations around Mount Desert Island for filming.
Locations shot on Mount Desert Island included the Bass Harbor Ferry Terminal, downtown Southwest Harbor and at Harbor View Motel & Cottages, also in Southwest Harbor.
“I think the landscape really charged up our director of photography, [Matthew Pothier],” Horowitz said. “He went out every night at dusk to shoot all these beautiful landscape shots. It really colored the film. He was insistent that we shoot on the ferry, and sure enough, when we called the captain, he called me back and said sure.”
They also connected with Pete Hansen, a Bangor-based contractor and freelancer, who helped the crew find several locations in Bangor. Hansen connected them with the Penobscot Theatre Co., whose home base, the Bangor Opera House, stood in for the exterior of a movie theater in the film. He also suggested Judy’s, a longtime diner and bar on State Street, which stood in for the diner where Fran and Robert go for pie after their movie.
Hansen said Judy’s owner Del Merritt did not want to close the place while they shot the film, so customers ate their meals and politely sat at the bar while the crew did their work.
“There were quite a few customers there while the scenes were shot,” Hansen said. “Everyone was very quiet and had great manners while the actors and crew shot their scenes.”
Before shooting began, Horowitz said she explained to all the customers how the shooting would work.
“Before we started shooting, I got everyone’s attention and told them how it was going to go. ‘When I say ‘action,’ please be quiet. And when I yell ‘cut,’ you can go about your business again,’” Horowitz said. “I think everyone was just really curious.”