ROCKLAND -It’s been 13 years since writer-director Joel Strunk finished his first draft of what is now a major motion picture, Anatomy of the Tide. That script placed in the top 30 of the Nicholl Fellowship in both 2001 and 2010, one of the few scripts to place twice in that scriptwriting competition.
As with all movies, it all starts with the story:
This is an intimate tale of an island boy's journey to courage. Kyle Waterman seeks redemption from a fisherman father unable to forgive himself for the drowning death of his other son.The family falls apart. A roving pedophile ceases the moment. Years pass. Kyle hides the secret well, like most children do, until a prosecutor from the mainland knocks on his door; he needs Kyle to testify on behalf of new victims too young to face a trial. A dangerous cliff on the east face of the island offers Kyle all of the courage to do this—to tell the truth—to confront his grieving father—to leave the island for for the Ivy Leagues. But to do this, he must truly understand the Anatomy of the Tide.
On Sunday, July 28, after three years of fundraising, shooting and post-production, Strunk stood in the lobby of the Strand Theatre in Rockland, flanked by his co-producer Ryan Post and two of his principal actors, Nathan Keyes (The Kings of Summer), and Danny Flaherty (Hope Springs).
“This is just a galvanizing, indelible moment for me, personally,” Strunk said as hundreds of people—primarily investors of the film—filed inside for their first private screening. “We beat the odds. There were so many near misses, bullets we dodged—there was a spirituality in the casting process. We were hoping for one star and we got a whole cast of them. “
A fisherman, a husband and a father, Strunk has worked tirelessly to get this film made on the coast of Maine, a feat few major league producers take on, due to Maine’s lower-than-average tax incentives for filmmakers.
These last three years have been the most challenging for Strunk and his co-producer and fellow lobsterman, Ryan Post. First, there was the matter of crowdfunding the old-fashioned way. Unlike so many filmakers who use Kickstarter, however, Strunk and Post spent much of their time raising funds by meeting folks in person, working the phones, pulling in every contact they had, drumming up a few thousand dollars at a time from each investor.
This is a daring model in order to get a film made, and it has paid off. They reached 100 percent of their goal. The film reached in excess of $1.3 million dollars and counting. To date, more than 85 percent of the film’s backers come from Maine, many of them, largely in the fishing industry.
“Most of our investors came from the smaller components of the lobster and fishing industries around here,” Strunk said, noting that many were people he and Post routinely worked with and around. “It is an amazing thing that we’ve been able to accomplish—it does not elude me what this means. The gratitude and appreciation for our investors who had the imagination to support this—I’m so proud of them.”
For other filmmakers who wish to shoot in Maine, this is a success story to pay attention to.
“In Los Angles, you can’t independently finance anything. You can’t approach anyone. It all goes through the major studios,” said Strunk. “In Maine, the upside is we are not encumbered by the constraints of the film industry and independent filmmakers are much freer to make their movies here.”
With local cinematographer Daniel Stephens at the helm, Strunk and his crew shot the film over a period of five weeks in the fall of 2011 with additional principal photography shot during in 2012. Though the film takes place on the fictional island of Cliff Haven off the coast of Maine, most of the locations were actually filmed on the mainland in Midcoast Maine, including Owls Head, Rockland and South Thomaston. Locals will recognize many of the places in the film including scenes shot at Archer’s on the Pier, Slipway and Owls Head General Store. To get the island "look" for the film, many exteriors were shot on the island of Vinalhaven and one crucial scene was filmed on Monhegan Island.
“Probably one of the biggest highlights of shooting was marching through a vernal, spruce forest on Monhegan Island at 4:30 a.m. with backpacks and our star talent carrying the camera equipment like Sherpas—Gabe Basso, Nathan Keyes—all in a single cause to help me make this film,” said Strunk.
He has a written a number of other movie scripts over the years and is looking forward to focusing back on writing that the film has been released. He’s currently working on another script that has some interest in it, titled Veteran’s Day. “But right now my focus is making this film a success and that takes more than just showing up at the altar. You’ve got to go the distance.”
Long before this film was made, Strunk cited his father, entertainer, Jud Strunk, as his endless source of inspiration. The elder Strunk who played music and had big connections in the entertainment industry in the 1970s (including a stint on Johnny Carson’s Today Show) passed away in a plane crash when Joel was young.
Now, having persevered and seen this film completely through, what would his father think if he were here on the red carpet with him?
“He had a huge affection for film, but his entertainment schedule never allowed him to fulfull his own aspirations, so I think he’d be really proud. I think he’d be crazy about it.”
To keep up with the next phase of Anatomy of the Tide as it goes into distribution, visit their Facebook page.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org