For 35 years, beginning in 1949, Art and Nan Kellam chose to live their lives alone together, summer and winter, in a tiny handbuilt cabin tucked into the trees on the island of Placentia about 2 miles off the shore of Mount Desert Island from Bass Harbor.
Their daylight hours were occupied largely with the necessary chores for surviving often brutal weather conditions. Nights were for reading the works of the great minds they admired, discussing those works, writing in their journals, perhaps stargazing at the uninterrupted night sky from the gazebo they built on the shore or simply enjoying the enduring pleasure of each other’s company.
Theirs was a quiet, private, though not entirely reclusive life. By their accounts, it also was a good one. While the couple did, according to their journals, question the choices they made from time to time, they never regretted them.
It was an unusual life. In the years since their deaths, Art in 1985, Nan in 2001, there has been considerable interest in the Kellams from writers and photographers who have journeyed out to Placentia to document in words and pictures their tidy, rustic homestead before it disappears back into the earth.
Now comes a young documentary filmmaker, Peter Logue of Southwest Harbor, inspired by the most recent of these books, Peter Blanchard’s “We Were an Island,” who is preparing to shoot his first narrative film — using a script and actors — about the Kellams’ life on Placentia.
Logue’s previous documentaries were largely solo efforts involving his camera, his research and his subjects, and as such, have moved rather swiftly from start to finish.
Among his seven completed films are “The Search for the White Rose” (2014) about a doomed group of young German resistance fighters, which was his senior project for the University of Connecticut, and most recently, “The Fire of ’47.”
Putting together a scripted movie is much more complicated, Logue said.
“This project has already been three years in the making.” He has been researching the Kellams’ lives by reading their journals, interviewing people who knew them and sleuthing out other source materials. He also has been assembling his film crew.
“I now appreciate why they have those long credits at the end of movies,” he said. “Even a 30-minute film, like this one will be, involves many, many people to get the job done right.”
The script is being written by New York-based Jahn Sood, and Blanchard is advising on the project. Logue also will need a cameraman, a couple of producers, an original score composer, a costumer, hair and makeup artists, a prop master, a film editor, set designer and builders, transportation for land and sea, craft services for feeding the cast and crew during the shoot and people for a host of other important functions.
Then, of course, there are the actors. Logue said he plans to use local people for the smaller parts — mostly the fishermen who helped the Kellams out from time to time over the decades — but he does not care to divulge the name of the two major actors he is hoping will take on the roles of Art and Nan. He said he is still in the discussion phase but believes their talent and their names, if they decide to sign on, will help propel the film to the Sundance Film Festival, the premier festival of the many in which he plans to enter the film.
And finally, essential to any movie-making project is the money. Logue believes he can make his movie for $75,000 and has already raised $45,000 through private appeals. This week, he is launching a public campaign to raise the remaining $25,000.
The campaign details, link and more information about the Kellams and the movie can be found on Logue’s website: peterloguefilms.com.
Logue said he hopes to have his crew, his actors and his funding in place by this June, when he expects to shoot the film in about a week. The time-consuming stuff, he said, comes before and after.
“The legacy left by the Kellams is one of determination, love, and optimism,” Logue wrote in fundraising materials.
That could very well be a description of the filmmaker himself. Three years ago, he walked into an exhibit at the MDI Historical Society in Somesville and was captivated by the lives of its subjects, the Kellams. As other projects came and went, this story would not release its hold on his imagination. Although it would have been much faster and easier to create yet another documentary, he thought the perfect project to take his next big leap forward as a filmmaker would be a narrative film on a topic that would have a broad appeal.
“I think anyone can understand and to some degree identify with the Kellams wanting to escape a troubled world, to go live on a secluded island for a while,” Logue said. “The big question, the big mystery is what made them stay.”
Asked if he has solved that mystery, he said with rather startling confidence, “Yes, I have. That’s the film.”