BAR HARBOR — After three years in pre-production, a of year filming and post production editing, not to mention the years of imagining it, Peter Logue’s first narrative film “We Were an Island” is ready for its premier Saturday, June 15, at 7 p.m. at the Criterion Theatre.
The film is inspired by the lives of Art and Nan Kellam, who spent 36 years together on the island of Placentia, one of a quartet of Mount Desert Island-area outer islands that includes Gott’s and Black islands. Peter Blanchard’s book, “We Were an Island: The Maine Life of Art & Nan Kellam” was a starting point for Logue; Blanchard also served as a consultant on the film.
“Art and Nan’s story captivated me from the moment I learned of it,” says Logue. “I find their decades-long commitment to their shared vision, and each other, truly admirable.”
Coincidentally when Logue mentioned his close-to-obsession interest in this story to his friend and playwright Jahn Sood, Sood — who has a family connection to MDI — interrupted saying “oh, you mean those folks out on Placentia?”
They ended up talking all night about their shared vision for a film.
This is when those three years of pre-production got started — script writing, casting, location scouting, money raising, set building, costume designing, then more money raising, etc.
As a documentarian (his works include “The Fire of ’47,” “The White Rose,” “The Crooked Road Shakespeare Kids”) Logue was new to many of the required elements of making a scripted, narrative film.
“We decided not to be strictly literal with the story,” Logue says, admitting that this was a leap for him. “While both Art and Nan wrote wonderful journals about their lives, most of it was internal, philosophical. What Jahn and I wanted to capture was their complex essence, the thing that made it possible for them to make this huge commitment to each other and to this place.”
While the dialogue in the movie may not be verbatim from the couple’s journals, it is deeply informed by them.
Then there were the actors. Logue has worked with performers before, perhaps most notably the Barn Arts crew in the popular music video commercial for Gott’s Store.
“But they were all my friends,” he said. “This was my first time directing professional industry actors, and I’ll admit I was pretty intimidated at first. But even before we started, they all put me at me ease, with their sincere interest in the story and willingness to be directed by someone so new to the process.”
Playing the older Kellams are Loudon Wainwright III, a successful musician turned actor (“Big Fish,” “Knocked up”), and the wonderful Becky Ann Baker, perhaps best known as the mom in both “Freaks and Geeks” and more recently “Girls.”
Chris Henry Coffey and Jennifer Mudge (a couple in real life), play the Kellam’s younger selves. The almost-ubiquitous character actor Dylan Baker (the serial wife-killer in “The Good Wife”), who also has an MDI connection, plays the local physician Dr. Julian Kuffler.
There are a couple of true local talents in the film, as well: Chummy Rich plays his own grandfather Cliff and Jason “Crazy Jake” Hodgdon, a lobsterman and comedian, pretty much plays himself.
Another true-to-life star of the film is a rowboat, the actual dory that the real Kellams used to row to and from Bass Harbor (McKinley in the early years).
The majority of the outdoor filming was done last June at a private property in Somesville, where a replica of the Kellam’s rustic cabin was erected.
While the actors didn’t have to actually row the dory in the open sea, there was plenty of time on the water for cast, crew and unwieldy equipment. Logue says there were a couple of near-disasters he didn’t want to elaborate on, except to say that nobody died.
He would have like to have filmed the whole thing on Placentia, he said, but logistics made that impossible — lack of electricity on the island, for one thing. But they did get over for some scenic shots and for the sound crew to record the ambient “voice” of the island as the Kellams might have heard it when they first arrived.
“I’m really excited how it all came together,” Logue said. “Do I have some anxiety about how audiences will respond to it? Sure — especially from those who actually remember the Kellams and may be expecting something more literal.
“But I am hopeful they will come away understanding why Art and Nan made their important life decisions and admire them for committing to this shared dream in their youth, then standing by that commitment through all hardships. Kind of a metaphor for a marriage, really.”
Following the June 15 screening, Logue and Sood will hold a talkback. Blanchard will be on hand as well. The film runs 23 minutes. Tickets are $10-12. Visit criteriontheatre.org.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated Chris Henry Coffey’s name. The Islander apologizes for the error.